Meetings set for O’Brien County wind projects; Separate projects target electrical generation and transmission
Wind energy in O’Brien County still appears to be on track for eventually developing down two entirely different paths, electrical generation and long-distance HVDC transmission, now that the date for two critical public meetings is known.
The main agenda item at the regular Tuesday morning July 30 session of the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors was the discussion setting the date, time and location for the 500 megawatt, Invenergy Highland Wind Energy Project construction permit application hearing.
All Board members were present. Invenergy project developer Erin Brush was present in the supervisor’s chambers. Invenergy’s other project developer Greg Leuchtmann was linked in via a conference call. Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission planning director Steven Hallgren was also linked in via conference call. Hallgren assists the county on matters of infrastructure development.
The Board was aware that the likely date for the Invenergy hearing could conflict with a joint Iowa Utilities Board/Clean Line Energy public informational meeting at Hartley. Clean Line’s high voltage direct current (HVDC) wind energy transmission line from O’Brien County to Grundy County, Illinois is steadily moving forward.
Board chairman Tom Farnsworth opened the formal discussions when he explained the conflict with the two meetings. Farnsworth said, “Clean Line is meeting over in Hartley on August 20 at 9 a.m.. We’re planning on going over there and showing our support for Clean Line.
So, we’re talking about an afternoon hearing August 20 for the Invenergy wind farm construction permit application. Then we’ll go into our regular weekly Board meeting after the public hearing is closed.”
After a brief discussion about holding the public hearing at noon or 12:30, everyone concurred that noon was what would fit into everyone’s schedule. Farnsworth then asked for a motion stating that the Invenergy hearing will convene at noon on August 20 in the O’Brien County Court House assembly room.
Supervisor Jim DeBoom offered that motion which was subsequently seconded. The Board unanimously approved the motion for holding the Invenergy construction permit public hearing after the Board returns from the IUB/Clean Line Energy public information meeting in Hartley.
In other matters related to Invenergy’s construction permit application, Hallgren said he was working on a draft of the public hearing notice that’s to be published in all official county newspapers prior to the hearing.
Hallgren said he was also working on the letter that’s to be mailed out to all landowners within or near the boundary of the 40,000-acre footprint of the wind farm. Hallgren expressed concern that the list from the abstractor has many parcels where the names of owners are repeatedly duplicated. He suggested that Invenergy clean up the duplicated names on this mailing list and pare the list down to 600 to 700 hundred affected landowners.
Another matter to be resolved after the outcome of Invenergy’s construction permit vote is known concerns the de-commissioning agreement between the County and Invenergy.
According to the O’Brien County Wind Energy Device Ordinance, each wind turbine and its associated equipment must be removed and the land restored to its original condition down to four feet below grade, if the wind farm ceases to operate for an extended period of time. Financial assurance of up to $25,000 per turbine must be in place for this removal and restoration.
The other issue that needs to be resolved once the construction permit is addressed concerns the complicated road use agreement between the County and Invenergy. Basically, if Invenergy causes damage to any roads or bridges due to the heavy equipment loads anticipated, Invenergy is responsible for making repairs.
Invenergy now has an office open in Primghar. The Invenergy office is located next to the Primghar City Hall.
*Clean Line Energy Files Preferred Route with IUB
Secondly, the developers of a proposed (HVDC) wind energy transmission line, Clean Line Energy Partners from Houston, Texas, filed their preferred route on July 3, 2013. Clean Line is nearing the point where it needs to formally request a franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board to construct, operate and maintain their proposed 600,000-volt DC transmission line. The transmission line is known as the Rock Island Clean Line.
The Iowa Utilities Board will preside over the joint public information meeting with Rock Island representatives at 9 a.m. on the morning of August 20, 2013. This meeting will be held at Hartley, Iowa in the Hartley Community Center.
Representatives from the IUB are to present a summary of the legal rights of all affected landowners along the 18.5 mile transmission line route in O’Brien County. Representatives of Rock Island Clean Line will follow up the IUB presentation, explain the $2 billion project, why it’s necessary and answer questions about their proposed (HVDC) wind energy transmission line.
According to Iowa law, electric transmission companies proposing new transmission infrastructure are not permitted to negotiate with individual landowners for transmission easements until after this joint meeting has concluded. After the meeting, Rock Island will begin to seek 200-foot wide voluntary transmission easements for the construction, operation and maintenance of this new line.
The Iowa Code and Iowa Administrative Code requires that new high voltage transmission infrastructure must align along lines of property division like half-section lines, parallel to roads and near existing infrastructure right-of-way wherever practical and reasonable.
Rock Island’s plans show a $225,000,000 AC to DC converter station in Section 6, Center Township called the Western Converter Station. The transmission line is to start in the exact center of that section and then proceed due east for 3 miles to the center of Section 3, Center Township.
The new power line follows half-section lines south for about seven miles to the center of Section 10, Highland Township where it turns east. The line heads due east, again along half-section lines, for about 8 miles where it exits O’Brien County in Section 12, Grant Township.
The primary requirement for obtaining a franchise is that Rock Island must show that its proposed transmission project is necessary for a public use, that the proposed transmission line represents a reasonable relationship to an overall plan of transporting electricity in the public interest, and that it satisfies all the requirements of Iowa law and IUB rules.
Rock Island maintains that the purpose of this new transmission line is to ship 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy generated in northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota and southeast South Dakota to the Western Converter Station and then on to Illinois and other markets in the eastern United States.
Rock Island doesn’t currently have the right to use eminent domain procedures to acquire transmission easements from landowners. If they do need to exercise the right of eminent domain at some point, Rock Island must prove to the satisfaction of the IUB that properties in question will serve the public interest. Public hearings are then required, if that right of eminent domain is sought for a particular 200-foot wide parcel of land.
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