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Electric line proposed to transmit wind energy through region

A siting permit for a high-voltage electric line designed to transmit wind energy from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, won approval before the Kansas Corporation Commission last week.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line has proposed the 750-mile, $2 billion direct current transmission line, which would originate near Dodge City, Kan., and cross through Northeast Missouri and West-Central Illinois.

Diana Rivera, project development manager for Clean Line, said the project has been approved in Indiana and Kansas. Route options through Missouri will be brought before the Missouri Public Service Commission next spring. Maps shown on the project’s website indicate that alternatives are being considered as far north as the U.S. 36 area around Hannibal and as far south as Bowling Green.

“We are reviewing (input from) public hearings and open houses we had with landowners” before narrowing the request to a single proposed route for the Missouri Public Service Commission, Rivera said.

No proposed routes have been drafted in Illinois. That work won’t begin until Missouri officials have signed off on a route and it is known where the line would cross the Mississippi River into Illinois.

“We’ve been working one step at a time,” Rivera said.

Illinois route options are expected to be discussed at public hearings with landowners in late summer or early fall 2014. Those routes will be somewhere between southern Adams County and the Pike-Calhoun County line. Farmland easements typically amount to $4,000 for each acre directly affected and can be received through annual payments or one-time adjustments.

Clean Line, an affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC based in Houston, is using the “merchant model” for development, with the corporation financing construction. Investors will then receive earnings from what producers pay to transmit electricity and what buyers pay to obtain the electricity. Wind farms in western Kansas are expected to benefit from the power line, and power companies in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana will have access to the clean energy produced in less populous areas of the nation.

Rivera said direct current is proposed because it is the best choice for long-distance transmission lines.

“DC lines are really great for what we’re trying to do. Once you’re transmitting more than 300 miles or so, DC becomes more efficient,” Rivera said.

One drawback is that converter stations, built where electricity enters or comes out of the transmission line, are expensive to build.

Clean Line hopes to have final approval by 2015, with construction starting in 2016 and the transmission line put in service as early as 2018.

The project’s website notes that thousands of construction jobs will be created when the line and converter stations are built, and schools also will benefit from state utility taxes that the line generates.