MADISON, Mo. – Marilyn O’Bannon’s home sits less than a quarter mile from the proposed path for a new transmission line that would carry 3,500 megawatts from Kansas to Indiana.
That is more electrical capacity than is produced by the Hoover Dam.
O’Bannon’s family owns property along 6 miles of where Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston intends to build a 750-mile high-voltage direct current transmission line known as the Grain Belt Express. The line will connect to the PJM Interconnection grid, then send electricity from wind farms in the west to markets in eastern states where there is a strong demand for low-cost, clean power.
However, O’Bannon and her son, Jay O’Bannon, believe this line offers no benefit to Missourians and potentially could harm the landowners in 14 counties across the state.
“We don’t have a problem with green or clean energy sources. We’re all for that,” Jay O’Bannon said. “We don’t see the benefits to Missourians. We’re just a big extension cord.”
Direct current is an efficient and cost effective technology to move large amounts of power over long distances. The lines to carry the current create a smaller footprint than comparable alternating current lines. After its initial construction, the company expects $7 billion of new, renewable energy projects to be built.
The project is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs to construct the transmission line and wind farms, as well as more than 500 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the wind farms and the transmission line. The project kicked off in May 2010 and now is in the public appeal phase. The company aims for commercial operation by 2018.
The Missouri part of the line would run from St. Joseph to Hannibal and pass through Monroe, Shelby, Marion, Ralls and Pike counties. The Illinois route has not been published.
An activist group known as Block Grain Belt Express aims to stop Clean Line from using eminent domain to force Missouri landowners to sell 200-foot-wide easements. The group will host a number of meetings throughout the 14 counties within the next few weeks.
Jennifer Gatrel, whose family operates a farm in Caldwell County in Northwest Missouri, has been raising awareness of the transmission line since last summer. Gatrel believes that because Missourians do not benefit from easements, Clean Line should not receive eminent domain from public utility status through the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Clean Line intends to apply for that status during the first quarter of 2014. The activist group believes the transmission lines should be buried along a highway’s right of way.
Gatrel believes property values could plunge as much as 50 percent if the transmission line is built. Her own home sits 300 feet from the proposed path of the line.
“Who would want to buy a house in the country 300 feet from the country’s largest voltage line?” she said. “It’s just wrong for a private, for-profit company to come in and take (our land). Our story is just one of a thousand.”
Jay O’Bannon said the line poses a problem for the family farm’s Global Positioning System and aerial technology. The line also requires four to seven support structures per mile, and O’Bannon believes farming around the towers that stand 110, 140 or 200 feet tall will decrease efficiency.
Gatrel said support for Block Grain Belt Express has increased steadily in recent months. More than 130 people attended a public meeting in Madison, Mo., earlier this year.
“Our land is worth it to us,” Gatrel said. ” We’ve built it from nothing. We’ve sacrificed everything for it. Now we’re looking at it being devalued.”
Block Grain Belt Express meetings:
º Shelbina Public Library, 102 N. Center in Shelbina, at 11 a.m. Saturday for Shelby and Monroe counties.
º Monroe City Nutrition Center, 314 S. Main, Monroe City, at 3 p.m. Saturday for Marion, Ralls and Monroe counties.
º Bowling Green Community Center 201 W. Locust, Bowling Green, 11 a.m. on March 1 for Pike and Ralls counties.
º Community Room in the Audrain County Courthouse basement in Mexico at 3 p.m. March 1 for Audrain and Monroe counties.
º Lion’s Club, New London, at 11 a.m. March 8 for Ralls County.