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Wind energy transmission line could come through West Central Illinois

A high voltage transmission line that would take wind power from Kansas and deliver it to the Midwest could be coming through West Central Illinois.

Diana Coggin is the project development manager for Clean Line Energy Partners. She says the Clean Line Grain Belt Express project will transport 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy. The $2 billion project would extend 700 miles from Western Kansas to Indiana and states farther east. One proposed route sends it north of St. Louis and through West Central Illinois. Another sends the line south of St. Louis. Coggin and other Clean Line representatives are meeting with stakeholders in each of the 23 counties that may be affected.

“We’ve got a lot of land in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois that we’re looking at in terms of identifying where our potential routes will go,” says Coggin. “So, the meetings that we’ve been having this week are to seek input from local stakeholders, like county board members and others, to learn about their county.”

Coggin says a path for the transmission line should be determined by the fall. The company will hold public hearings to get input from landowners and other people with interest in the project once a route is worked out.

In Illinois, Grain Belt Express Clean Line will apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Clean Line will submit an application to the Illinois Commerce Commission, after evaluating environmental data and working with local leaders to identify a preferred route.

The Houston-based company would gain a profit by charging a tariff, similar to a toll, for transmission from electricity producers to utilities.

“The prices for wind energy have come down,” says Coggin. “The technology has improved a lot over the years but it’s a matter of bringing that power to market. The wind is strongest in very rural areas where there’s just not that much demand for energy. So, our challenge is to bring that energy to market and we’re doing so in the most efficient way possible with these direct current lines.”

Coggin says residents in Illinois would eventually see electricity prices drop with the installation of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line.

“We plan to drop off some of the power into Ameren’s system,” says Coggin. “We’re studying this with them right now and then we’ll drop off more of the power along the Illinois-Indiana border. So, by offering this new resource into the mix it helps diversify the energy resources and just by the law of supply and demand by adding more supply of low-cost energy you’ll bring prices down.”

She says the construction and operation line would create thousands of jobs in the Midwest and local companies would be contacted for opportunities in construction, manufacturing and service involved in wind energy and transmission industries.

The Grain Belt Express project one of four similar renewable energy transmission projects planned throughout the Midwest.