Since their public informational meeting in August 2013, representatives of the Rock Island Clean Line project have been meeting with landowners to answer questions directly regarding the project’s 500-mile wind energy transmission system through Iowa into Illinois to connect with the power grid in the northeast region of the country.
“We haven’t been making formal presentations or come with formal agendas,” Beth Conley, Iowa manager for Rock Island Clean Line, said. “It’s just an opportunity for landowners to sit down one-on-one with a member of our team and ask questions.”
Beginning around the beginning of the year, Conley said the project has also been signing voluntary easements with landowners.
“We met pretty consistently with landowners until planting season got underway, and then picked up again once planting was finished” she said. “We’ve definitely cherished the opportunity to sit down with people at their table and answer specific questions.”
“If I were a landowner and I was approached about a transmission going through my property, I would definitely have some concerns,” she continued. “There are certainly concerned landowners, and they continue to raise those concerns publicly and directly to us. Some landowners have more questions than others. That’s why we’re up here. We want to get people as much real information as we can.”
The response from landowners, she noted, has been largely positive.
“Generally, I think most people are pleased we’re willing to talk to them, and that we continue to come back,” she said. “They’re also interested, and I think impressed, with the regulatory process involved with the Iowa Utilities Board.”
Rock Island Clean Line is awaiting a decision on their case with the Illinois Commerce Commission, which they filed at the end of last year.
“As much as you can make an estimate, we expect to hear something later this summer,” she said.
Their case with the Iowa Utilities Board will likely be filed by the end of the year, and a decision made sometime next year. With the assumption that everything is passed, construction would likely begin in 2016 and power could be delivered anytime from late 2017 into 2018.
“It’s an exciting project,” Conley said. “It could change the face of northwest Iowa and it could grow our wind energy across the state.”
The project could bring as much as $7 billion in investment, largely to a 75-mile area of northwest Iowa that includes Clay and O’Brien counties. In addition, Conley noted about 500 permanent operations and maintenance wind energy jobs would become available.
“There are a lot of benefits that can be realized here,” she said.
Compensation to landowners, Conley said, includes a 90 percent easement area compensation as well as payment per structure, which is either paid in one lump sum or annually over the course of the life of the structure with a 2 percent increase in payment each year to account for inflation. In many cases, the landowner is also able to decide which of the three structures he or she prefers for the property.
“The smaller structures have a smaller footprint, but more are required per mile,” she said. “In some cases, a larger structure has to be used because of height or requirements with the surrounding area.”
Rock Island Clean Line does not produce the wind energy, but transmits the energy produced by wind developers.
“Those companies are our customers,” she said. “There’s been a lot of interest. In this area it’s been a good mix of larger companies developing across the state and nation and smaller companies within specific communities. I think there’s a place for everyone.”
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