CARROLLTON – Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC is asking for public input from Greene County landowners as it designs the best route for transmission lines to provide low cost renewable electricity from wind farms in western Kansas to Illinois residents.
Rick Cornell and Alley Smith from Clean Line Energy Partners met with the Greene County board Wednesday to explain the project and for help getting public feedback for the transmission project. The developers are looking for the best route to run above ground DC (direct current) power lines from western Kansas 750 miles to the Indiana border to provide electricity to approximately 1.4 million homes per year. The project is designed to provide clean, low cost energy to Illinois and surrounding states.
“It is an approximately 750-mile line (200 miles in Illinois) and we’re investing $2 million per mile. It is an approximately $700 million investment in wind farms in Kansas,” Cornell said. “It will deliver 3,500 megawatts of electricity to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states to the east that need clean energy.”
Clean Line will apply to the Illinois Commerce Commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity once the route is determined to construct and maintain the line. The line will require 150 to 200 foot right of way, but property owners will be well compensated. Cornell said some property easements are competitive at $7,000 an acres. Landowners could receive $75,000 to $100,000 for the easements in one lump sum payment or opt for annual payments that would be a revenue stream attached to the property, Cornell said.
“The best part for the county is we would volunteer to pay the county through the county board $7,000 per mile each year,” said Cornell. “We hope to sign a 20-year agreement, as our attorney recommended but we will be operating much longer.”
Clean Line has set up public meetings where they will present maps of potential transmission line routes asking for property owners input. There will be a public meeting at the KC Hall in Carrollton on Dec. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. There will also be a meeting in Carlinville on Dec. 3 at the Lake Williamson Christian Center from 7 to 10 p.m. The meetings are informal so people can show up at any time. Plat maps of potential routes will be displayed and representatives will answer questions and take comments. Cornell showed maps of three potential routes located north of Carrollton and south of Winchester in Scott County.
“We will have more than one public meeting. Everyone is invited,” Cornell said. “We will show people a number of alternative routes that span the width of the county. It looks like a web now but in the end there will be one route that we will file with the ICC in 2015 after receiving the input. Help us to educate the public; we want their feedback so we can change the route if necessary.”
Clean Line is working with the Department of Agriculture on an agreement to leave leased land in the same condition they found it. Cornell said the poles for the above ground lines will use one-third the space required by conventional poles. The ground can still be used for growing crops and for pasture.
Greene County commissioners asked about the possible use of eminent domain to acquire land along the route. Smith said once the ICC approves the project, Direct Line would have that option, but the goal is to get 100 percent voluntary participation.
“We don’t want to use eminent domain. We are really hoping not to do that. We can work with landowners like we are doing in Kansas and Missouri, “said Smith. “If the ICC establishes a need for the project… we have the authority.”
Cornell said the project to provide wind powered energy to a wider marker has already met with opposition in Missouri, often from people who don’t even live there.
“When we file the route we will try to be as sensitive to that as we can when working with individual landowners,” said Cornell. “It is not realistic that we will not receive push back but we feel the benefits are significant. We want to open a line of communication with the public.”
Once the project is completed the low cost energy will be available to electric co-ops and other electricity providers in the area. The project will benefit Illinois by reducing whole sale electricity prices and creating hundreds of construction jobs and tax revenue for local communities.
Cornell told the board they had hoped to complete the project in 2016 but now it looks more likely that completion will be in 2017. Clean Line has about 5 percent of the route planned in Missouri. Fifteen to 16 percent of the land acquisitions in Kansas have been secured. The development of the wind farms parallels the development of the transmission line, Cornell told the board.
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