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ICC unanimously approves RICL

The Illinois portion of the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) energy transmission project, which will cut through part of Bureau and other counties, was approved Tuesday, Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) unanimously approved an order granting Rock Island Clean Line LLC, a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy, a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which will allow it to build and operate the 121-mile Illinois portion of the new 500-mile direct current electric power line.

If approved, the line is slated to deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind power from the greater northwest Iowa area to Illinois, the release said.

It will begin in north central O’Brien County, Iowa, and end at a Commonwealth Edison substation in Grundy County. In Illinois, it begins in Rock Island County at the Mississippi River south of Cordova, and then runs through Whiteside, Henry, Bureau and LaSalle counties before ending in Grundy County.

The company recently filed for the same permission in Iowa, and must go through the same regulatory process, said Amy Kurt, manager for Rock Island Clean Line.

Officials hope to have that approval in 2015, begin construction in 2016, and begin transmission in 2018, Kurt said. It took two years to win that approval in Illinois.

“The ICC approval is a great step forward for the Rock Island Clean Line project and brings Illinois one step closer to creating a cleaner energy future,” Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, said in the release.

“We are grateful to the commission for their careful consideration of our application and proposed route. By approving game-changing projects like the Rock Island Clean Line, Illinois will benefit from access to low-cost clean energy and job creation in the construction and manufacturing sectors.”

According to the company, RICL will decrease the annual cost of wholesale electricity used to serve Illinois customers by an estimated $320 million in its first year of operation alone. In addition, it will bring a direct investment of about $600 million in the state, and create hundreds of construction jobs and job support in the manufacturing sector for the wind turbines that will provide power for the line.

RICL will use local vendors, such as construction materials suppliers, and will buy its wire from Southwire Inc.’s Flora factory.

RICL will also generate millions of dollars in local government revenues annually for counties, schools, fire districts, and other community services where the line and converter station are located, the release said.

RICL submitted its application to the ICC in October 2012. It proposed tow routes, a preferred and alternative route; the preferred route was approved Tuesday with no objections.

The company still is in the process of signing up landowners and will provide easement payments and structure payments that can be made annually or up-front, at the landowner’s option, plus any damage payments, it said in the release.

The wind energy delivered by the Rock Island Clean Line will allow other generators to run less and burn less fuel by eliminating the need for the equivalent amount of energy to come from fossil fuels, thereby reducing pollution. More than 1.4 million homes will be powered by the renewable energy generated as a result of the project, the release said.

“This project will deliver pollution-free power to Illinois homes and businesses, and create good jobs in clean energy technologies,” Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, said in the release.

The full text of the final order was posted Wednesday on the ICC website, www.icc.illinois.gov.