SHELBYVILLE – Shelby and surrounding counties could be at the center of a Houston-based company’s plan to bring wind energy from western Kansas to eastern states on high-powered lines, but, for now, the Shelby County board has decided to remain neutral.
The board heard a presentation Wednesday from Rick Cornell of Clean Line Energy about the company’s plan to span four states with 750 miles of high-energy line. The project, dubbed the Grain Belt Express, would require 150 to 200 feet of easement on private agricultural property and consist of three to six towers per mile of line. Cornell said the $2 billion project could eventually serve 1.4 million homes with electricity year round and would provide an economic boost to areas the line passes through.
“We’re looking at 5,000 construction jobs in 2015 and 2016 and 500 permanent jobs after the lines are built,” Cornell said.
The company also would pay counties for permission to bring the lines through. Cornell said Shelby County would receive $7,000 annually for each mile of line, currently estimated at 20 miles.
“That’s $140,000 we could use,” county board Chairman Bruce Cannon said. “We would love the money. The two options we have to raise revenue in the county are raising taxes and participating in projects like this, so you can see why we’d like the money.”
But, with the Illinois Farm Bureau still not on board for the project, Cannon said the county would hold back.
“We’ll stick with the Farm Bureau,” he said. “If the Farm Bureau and landowners don’t want it, it’s best for us to stay neutral.”
Shelby County Farm Bureau manager Amy Rochkes said farmers still had many questions to be answered.
“The landowners have got to have a say in the routing process,” she said.
Cornell said landowners would receive payments for their easements and then could choose to either receive annual or lump sum payments for the use of the tower sites.
“An example is if the land was worth $8,000 an acre and we had a 150 foot by one-half mile easement we would pay $78,000 to the landowner. Then there would be an $18,000 payment for the tower maintenance access or $1,500 and an annual $500 payment, he said. “There could be three to six towers per mile.”
Cornell said he had talked to representatives from Christian, Adams, Pike, Moultrie, Clark and Cumberland counties among others.
“Shelby County is likely to be on the path we’d like to take,” he said. “We think it’s a great opportunity for us, for the land-owners and for the county.”
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