HUNTSVILLE – Last week, several Randolph County landowners told the Moberly Monitor-Index how they felt about Grain Belt Express Clean Line – an overhead direct current electrical line proposed to be built as towers on their property as it crosses Missouri. The week before, several Monroe County landowners talked about their farming operations and not wanting Clean Line towers on their property, as well.
Monroe County commissioners are supporting the wishes of farmers in their county.
Why have Randolph County commissioners come out in support of Clean Line? Late last Thursday (April 24), a meeting with the Randolph County Commissioners gave some insight into why they came out in support of Clean Line.
Commissioner Wayne Wilcox said, “They (Clean Line) selected the line of least resistance, and with some engineering concerns, that is why they picked the route they chose.”
Commissioner Jerry Crutchfield added, “They (the Clean Line-proposed route) followed an existing pipeline to a great degree coming into the county, but when they got to our end of the county, they got off and then got back on in Wayne’s area, staying away from as many houses as they could.
Plotting the proposed routes across Missouri has taken several years of planning. Crutchfield estimates there was about 35 people at a tabletop exercise with maps one-third the size of the commissioner’s conference table in Huntsville. They drew where the cemeteries were located, where airports were, and even family picnic places. “This has been going on for 2.5 years,” says Crutchfield.
In response to Clean Line representatives calling and asking for appointments with landowners to view their property, Wilcox says, “I’ve been called and asked for an appointment.” He told them he was asked to represent another lady, but he was on a tractor at the time, planting, and was not able to meet with Clean Line yet.
Crutchfield said, “Two farmers in my neighborhood that I know of have been called.”
Wilcox said, “Really, to write a truthful story, not just reporting what people have been saying, and a lot of those people are not informed, because they are falsehoods – because they are not informed. Now we are perpetuating it through the news media – then are we serving the public? Is your newspaper serving the public? They are not.”
Wilcox talked of clean renewable energy, stating wind, solar and hydro are all renewable, as well as clean. He said Associated Electric is buying that same kind of power.
If the proposed line goes through, how will Missouri landowners be paid?
“I have been to the meetings, but I haven’t had a formal proposal laid in front of me,” says Wilcox.
Crutchfield continued, “(Landowners) could accept a one-time payment or have a yearly payment indefinitely with an escalating cost for inflation.”
“It is hard to sort through all the stuff,” says Presiding Commissioner Susan Carter. “There is no Plan B here! What is Plan B (if there isn’t a transmission line)?”
Carter’s interest lies in the future. Her desire is to assure energy for generations to come.
“I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone, and we will all be gone, but will our kids and grandkids have clean, affordable energy?” she said. Carter showed an article by Eric D. Isaacs, Director of Argonne National Laboratory, entitled “Why America Needs a 21st Century Power Grid.” It states, “Here in America we already have vast resources for ‘grow-your-own’ renewable energy. The potential of land based wind power is estimated at more that 8,000 gigawatts, and solar cells could generate far more.”
To put those numbers in perspective, ConEd’s all-time record demand for northern Illinois was just over 23 gigawatts, set on Aug. 3, 2006.
“But all that potential energy generation does us little good if we can’t save that electricity for use at the times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, and if we can’t send it from the rural areas where it’s created to the cities where it’s needed the most,” the article stated. “And that will require major investment in the electric grid – the outdated, barely adequate system that moves electric power from generating stations to consumers nationwide.” Isaacs talks about the more than 100 Illinois companies with a total of 15,000 employees, all working in the wind power supply chain.
A call to Mariesa L. Crow, Ph.D., P.E., FIEEE, and past director of Energy Research and Development, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, revealed she was unable to be reached by phone, but through e-mail, she answered several MMI questions.
Do you have any studies that would say if there are health concerns from the megawatts going through a direct current transmission line that could deliver 3,500 megawatts of energy, we asked. Would it be possible to bury the transmission line instead of running an overhead line? Farmers are concerned about GPS signals from their farm equipment being interrupted. Would the noise level be significant?
Crow replied, “ Direct current overhead lines – there have been a number of studies performed regarding the health issues associated with high power transmission lines. Outside of minor irritations (audible noise, static discharge), the long-term health impacts are negligible.”
“It is not feasible to bury high power transmission lines,” she said. “Unlike distribution lines in neighborhoods, high power lines rely on air-cooling to maintain efficiency. They are also bare conductors and the cost to insulate them to bury them would be prohibitive. Lastly, burying conductors actually brings them closer to humans and animals, as the earth does not shield the electric field.
“Utilities use GPS and other communication in their substations for safety and monitoring, so the lines are designed to not interfere with communication in that particular frequency band.
“I personally would not be concerned about technological issues, but I do agree that the lines themselves are unsightly,” Crow said. “But just think about the potential drop in electricity prices”
Carter shared a report on HVDC lines from Ireland. Readers may find the pages of “Health issues relating to HVDC cable technology,” which give expert opinion by Eric Van Rongen, Ph.D., provided at the request of the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources of the Republic of Ireland, an interesting read, although it again may leave you on the fence as much of the results of such are inconclusive. The public is asked to educate themselves by obtaining and reading information from various sources to make unbiased decisions concerning health risks.
There are other pressing questions. What happens to the clay when holes are dug up to 50 feet deep for a concrete tower?
“I would let them build me a pond, “ says Commissioner Crutchfield.
The commissioners were in agreement, stating the recent pipeline has disturbed more land than the proposed transmission line would.
“If the time comes, landowners need to negotiate themselves a good deal,” says Wilcox. “Inform yourself, sit down, and work on what you want them to do.”
When asked about Clean Line not having customers, Wilcox replied, “They have the customers. They are just not telling who they are.”
Watch next week for a report from Randolph County Assessor Richard Tregnago, and an estimate and method used for determining revenues if the project becomes viable, assuming there are no property tax abatements or challenges to assessment values.
Tregnago stated,” I am more concerned about the company (Clean Line) gaining the power of condemnation by eminent domain, and opening the lid to Pandora’ Box. I am sympathetic to the potential revenues this project may provide to all the affected taxing jurisdictions, and, to increased monies willing easement owners deserve.”
A Block Grain Belt meeting will be held May 1 at the Moberly Area Community College Blue Room, beginning at 7 p.m.
To speak to a Clean Line representative, you may call toll free: 855-665-3432.
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