“Unless they figure in the cost of the loss of the trees, health insurance and health issues, and well water disturbance, that economic figure is not the true story,” said State Rep. Charlotte Vining Douglas, R-Alma. Clean Line’s proposed transmission line has received considerable backlash from a group called Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy. Douglas represents constituents who are with the group and has property in the proposed path of the line.
Van Buren’s Bekaert Corporation, Malvern’s General Cable and Little Rock’s LM Wind Power manufacturers stand to gain a major amount of business if the $2 billion Clean Line Energy Plains & Eastern transmission line is approved and landowners allow easement through Arkansas.
Michael Skelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy in Houston, met with Bekaert recently to talk about the steel needed for General Cable to produce about 4,000 miles of wire cable for the proposed 700-mile transmission line. The Plains & Eastern Line would facilitate a $500 million investment in Arkansas, Clean Line states.
At least 15 Arkansas businesses would see investments from Clean Line, Skelly said, including two to three years of jobs for Arkansas construction workers.
“Unless they figure in the cost of the loss of the trees, health insurance and health issues, and well water disturbance, that economic figure is not the true story,” said State Rep. Charlotte Vining Douglas, R-Alma.
Clean Line’s proposed transmission line has received considerable backlash from a group called Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy. Douglas represents constituents who are with the group and has property in the proposed path of the line.
The Plains & Eastern line would carry 3,500 megawatts of electricity through Arkansas from wind farms in west Oklahoma to east Tennessee. The line would begin in Arkansas in Crawford County.
Neither Skelly nor Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders have heard any word from Mitsubishi Power Systems on the Japanese company’s plans for its mothballed facility at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith. The mayor met with Mitsubishi in February to discuss options for the unused $40 million facility that was constructed to produce wind turbine generators.
A 500-megawatt converter station in central Arkansas has been woven into the plans following public comment to provide Arkansas more access to the wind energy.
“That’s about 5 percent of Arkansas’ annual energy needs, or enough power for 150,000 homes,” Skelly said during a recent interview. “And that will be long-term, low-cost and power that’s cleaner than a current mix that mostly relies on coal.”
A draft environmental impact study from the U.S. Department of Energy is expected at the end of this year, marking the next major stage in the proposed project now in its fifth year of development.
Clean Line has met with landowners to seek right of way with compensation of market value for easement, plus $24,000 to $18,000, or $2,000 and $1,500 a year, for large towers and $6,000, or $500 a year, for small towers, according to a Clean Line booklet. There also would be payments for crops, timber and other agricultural production impacts, Clean Line Executive Vice President Mario Hurtado said.
With four other project proposals in the country, Clean Line Energy’s transmission lines would allow the United States to increase wind-generated power by about 30 percent, from about 11,000 megawatts to almost 15,000 megawatts, Skelly said. Each wind generator produces about two megawatts, or enough power for 600 homes.
“The grid is saturated, so if we’re able to build this line, that’ll open up the possibility of new projects getting built,” Skelly said.
Clean Line only constructs transmission lines. With the addition of the transmission lines, however, the wind power industry would have a power outlet for 2,200 more turbines, which would require more than 6,000 new windmill blades.
“So, it will have a substantial impact on people like LM and anybody else in the wind value chain,” Skelly said.
LM makes about one-third of the wind turbine blades in the United States, he added.
Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal power have stiffened under the Clean Power Plan. Skelly points to wind energy as a component that will become increasingly important to America’s national energy policy.
“A strong grid is very helpful and our grid is old,” Skelly said. “Additional lines are helpful. And it’s economic development for the country, and that’s probably the most important thing you can do from a national security perspective.”
Clean Line Energy has received 32 percent of the signatures needed to construct the line from Oklahoma through Arkansas to Tennessee, according to the Plains & Eastern website. The number includes landowners from all three states.
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