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Kansas settles on route for high-voltage power line

Kansas utility regulators have approved the route of a $300 million high-voltage power line that is meant to boost the state’s wind-energy industry.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday approved the 122-mile “V” route in southwest Kansas that will stretch from near Spearville to east of Medicine Lodge. The decision was the last regulatory hurdle and clears the way for buying land along the route.

Construction is planned to begin in 2013 with the line going into service in 2014.

“The V-Plan will improve electric reliability and enable energy developers to tap into the transmission grid, further establishing a competitive energy market in the state,” Carl Huslig, an executive with ITC Great Plains, said in a statement. “This will contribute to a more robust transmission grid that will benefit Kansas and the entire region.”

ITC Great Plains is a subsidiary of ITC Holdings, a Michigan company that operates several high-voltage lines in the Midwest. The Kansas line is being built with local utility partners Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and Mid-Kansas Electric Co.

The regulatory decision follows the commission’s recent approval of a $200 million high-voltage line that will hook into the V line at Medicine Lodge and run to Oklahoma. That line will help export wind energy to other states and is being built by Prairie Wind Transmission, which has Westar Energy as a partner.

Kansas officials have pushed for the lines to be built to help revive the state’s wind energy industry, which has limited avenues to send power to other states.

The lines also have attracted critics, who raised concerns about their rising costs. The line to be built by Prairie Wind Transmission has seen its cost double, in part because of a change in the route to avoid the habitat of the little prairie chicken. Utility customers in several states including Kansas and Missouri will foot the bill.

The V route approved Tuesday by the KCC includes minor changes from the original route because of concerns of some landowners. The route travels through Ford, Clark, Kiowa and Barber counties.