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Commission hears power line update

The developers of the an electrical transmission line to move wind-generated power through Barton County told the County Commission Monday morning they should have a route determined in a matter of months. Representatives of Clean Line Energy Partners also addressed some concerns raised by the multi-billion-dollar project.
Clean Line Energy Partners based out of Houston, Texas, is in the process of developing four multi-billion-dollar power transmission lines to meet the need of the growing number of wind turbines. One of those, the Grain Belt Express, will pass through Barton County.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from Ford County to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and points farther east. The power will be transported via an approximately 700-mile overhead, high-voltage direct current transmission line, at a cost of about $2 million per mile.
“This is a long process,” said Allison Smith, project associate. In January, the company held public meetings with landowners, officials and residents to discuss their plans, and seek input on potential routes.
Smith said they are compiling the information gleaned from these meetings to formulate a route they can submit to the Kansas Corporation Commission. The company should get a final approval from the agency this summer.
However, commissioners had some questions about the proposal, questions also asked by their counterparts in other counties. Commission Chairman Don Cates asked about property tax abatements granted to the company, and wear and tear of county roads.
Easement agreements will be negotiated with landowners, who will receive payments, Smith said. Under state law, the project receives a 10-year tax abatement, but after that, Smith said the county will receive “tens of thousands of dollars” in tax revenue from the project after that, adding that they don’t plan on seeking any further tax breaks after that.
In addition, she said, Clean Line will offer a one-time “construction mitigation payment” of $7,500 per mile to the county. “You can use that at your discretion.”
When scouting routes for the line, Smith tried to avoid cities, airports and sensitive environmental areas, such as Cheyenne Bottoms. The company is working with all state and federal agencies that might have a say in the project.
They will also try to parallel existing lines and other structures. Depending on the type of poles used, there will be between four and seven per mile. They will stand about 100 feet.
At past meetings, commissioners were told the work will bring an influx of people to the area, including 5,000 temporary constructions jobs and 500 permanent operational jobs, with some of those folks possibly coming from Barton County. There is also the possibility that some vendors might come from the county as well.
Clear Line will sign agreements with counties and pay for any improvements to county roads that it needs, Smith said. It will also pay for any repairs necessary after the company’s heavy equipment leaves the area.
The HVDC method is the most efficient and cost effective technology to move large amounts of power over long distances due to its lower electricity losses and smaller footprint than comparable alternating current (AC) lines. The project should get regulatory approval by the end of 2014 and be completed by 2018.
The company is privately funding the line. Future costs will be paid for by the end users of the electricity.