Indiana is the end point of a proposed 700-mile-long transmission line that would carry the equivalent of three Hoover Dams worth of wind energy from the Great Plains.
Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners has started talking to prospective users of the aptly named Grain Belt Express transmission line, which it hopes to build by 2018.
The company says it could carry enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes a year, while its wind-derived energy would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tons annually, compared with dirtier energy sources such as coal.
The privately funded, $2 billion line will start in Kansas and cross Missouri and Illinois before terminating at a substation in Sullivan County, about two miles into Indiana.
Indiana was chosen as the end point because of its well-developed transmission system that the Grain Belt line can link into, said project development manager Diana Coggin.
Only one landowner in Sullivan County would be directly affected by the transmission line, and Clean Line is discussing compensation with him, said Deann Talley, the county’s economic development director.
Two public meetings on the project were held last week at the Sullivan County 4-H Fairgrounds, and Clean Line officials briefed members of the General Assembly’s Regulatory Flexibility Committee on their plans Thursday at the Statehouse.
By reaching into Indiana, the proposed line could deliver electricity to Indianapolis and cities further east. Coggin said. Clean Line is talking to Indianapolis Power & Light about a possible electricity contract.
“While both wind and solar electricity production is becoming cheaper, fossil-fueled plants remain the most competitive both for base-load generation and for dispatchable energy, or power which can be turned on or off based upon customer need,” IPL spokeswoman Crystal Livers-Powers said in a statement.
Base-load generation refers to the need to produce electricity constantly, due to the “24/7” demand for power, Livers-Powers said. Wind energy is variable, depending on whether the wind is moving the huge blades that spin on wind turbines.
Tony Samuel, president of Samuel Solutions Group, which is working with Clean Line on the project, said wind energy – which enjoys federal tax credits to developers – is cost-competitive with modern natural gas and coal-fired generation.
IPL has 300 megawatts of wind power in its portfolio and is awaiting regulatory approval to add 10 megawatts more, Livers-Powers said. By comparison, Clean Line says the Grain Belt Express will deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind power to consumers.
Indiana utilities have a voluntary goal of producing 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. Other states have mandates requiring the purchase of renewable energy.
Clean Line’s paying customers will be utilities and wind farms, which will pay to transport energy on its high-voltage direct-current line. Customers won’t be secured until 2013, after which investors will be found to pay for construction.
The long-haul line is needed because the nation’s windiest areas in the Great Plains are far from major cities where most energy is consumed. Lack of transmission capacity is crimping the wind energy industry, Coggin said. Building the transmission line could spur $7 billion in investments in new wind farms in the Great Plains states, she said.
That should also create jobs in Indiana, which has about 200 companies that are part of the supply chain for wind turbines and transmission lines.
But the future of the subsidies that aid the wind energy industry is unclear.
Clean Line is seeking route approval and the authority to build the transmission line in the four states the line will traverse. It must also apply to the Indiana Regulatory Commission to become an Indiana utility.
Clean Line also plans three other transmission lines: an 800-mile line through Texas into the Southeast; a 900-mile line from New Mexico into Arizona and California; and a 500-mile line from Iowa and South Dakota to points east.
Star reporter Jeff Swiatek contributed to this report.
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