Feelings were mixed, during and after a two-hour presentation last Thursday afternoon at the Veterans Center in Belmond. The proposed Rock Island Clean Line high-voltage power line that may cross Wright County just north of Belmond was the subject of the meeting that lasted for two and one-half hours.
A group of about 80 persons heard the presentation, many of them land-owners north of town who were invited to the meeting. Large maps showing the preferred route of the line were made public. At least 15 Clean Line employees and contractors were present to answer questions.
Some of the landowners didn’t like the plan, some favored it, and others weren’t sure.
One farmer said, “I love having wind turbines on my land. I wish I could have more.”
But another said, “Our land isn’t for sale, and we don’t want to give you an easement.”
A retired farmer commented, “I don’t think this is favored by most of the people in this room. It only benefits people out East.”
A father-son team was split: the younger said “no” while the older said “maybe”.
Clean Line Energy is a Texas Company that builds large multi-state power lines. Northwest Iowa, northeast Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, and southwest Minnesota are ideal locations to generate electricity using wind power. States to the east want “clean” electricity other than that generated by coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear power. So Clean Line believes there is a need for a transmission line to take wind energy to states in an eastern electric power group called PJM: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The proposal is to build a new 3,500 megawatt direct current transmission line from near Primghar in northwest Iowa to Morris, IL (southwest of Chicago), a distance of over 500 miles. It would cross Kossuth, Hancock, Wright and Franklin Counties in this part of the state. The line would carry DC power, the first such setup in Iowa. Most electricity is alternating current, but DC makes sense over very long distances.
The company has spent three years developing a route for the proposed power line, according to Charles Jasper of HDR Engineering in Omaha. It is a complicated endeavor, trying to find a path that is reasonable in terms of distance, construction and cost, while at the same time avoiding towns, rural homes, farm buildings, groves, underground tiles and pipelines, natural areas, cemeteries, highways, railroads, recreation areas, lakes, churches and airports. The line must stay at least 100 feet away from homes. At one time over half the state of Iowa was under consideration for the power line. But the area was continually narrowed down as one problem or another cropped up.
Now that a prefered route has been established, it must be submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board for approval. The IUB will hold a public hearing in Grundy Center at a future date to be announced. Persons who object to the plan can do so in writing, by electronic media, or in person, according to IUB representative Jim Sundermeyer.
Rock Island Clean Line representatives will soon begin negotiating easements with landowners, according to Julie Rasmussen of Contract Land Staff, a right of way expert from Cedar Falls at the meeting. The land where the power poles will stand will not be owned by Clean Line. The company will pay property owners for easements to build the line and service the line.
There would be two easement payments: one for the land over which the wires hang, and another for each pole. As an example, a farmer might expect a $70,000 one-time payment for every half mile of land crossed. (The payment is based on land value, and could be higher for more expensive farmland.) In addition, there would be a $6,000 one-time payment or a $500 annual payment for every monopole (2 to 3 poles per half mile). Corner poles are triple those figures.
Clean Line Director of Development Hans Detweiler said, “We realize that not all of you are happy to be here today. But this is a significant opportunity for Iowa. Rock Island Clean Line will carry three times the power created by the Hoover Dam, and more than all the power consumed in the state of South Dakota. It will foster a $7 billion investment in new wind turbines – nearly 4,000 megawatts. In Iowa, wind energy is a product, just like corn. And Rock Island Clean Line will be like a farm-to-market road for electricity.”
He said 15 to 20 companies are already looking at building new windfarms to supply the power line. This will create jobs at Iowa factories that make wind generator parts.
It was noted that the wind turbines functioning in this part of the state are already connected to the electric grid and won’t supply power to RICL. RICL will only carry power from new windfarms built in extreme northwest Iowa and neighboring states. That new AC power will all be converted into DC current. The AC wind power generated in this area will stay in this region.
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