The Grain Belt Express Clean Line has included a proposed route along with its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application with the Illinois Commerce Commission.
According to a news release from Clean Line Energy Partners, the route would span nine Illinois counties: Pike, Scott, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Cumberland and Clark.
“The Illinois Commerce Commission has the ultimate say for the route for the project,” said Amy Kurt, manager of Clean Line Energy Partners, “but we have put a lot of resources, time and attention into the route. We’ve worked with thousands of landowners to try and identify the route that would have the least impact throughout the state.”
With the submitted application, the Illinois Commerce Commission will carefully review the route and other aspects of the project, including benefits and economic impact. Kurt said the process could take from six to eight months to complete.
Clean Line has been working on the route since 2012, holding 27 public meetings that drew more than 3,000 residents who gave input on the route.
The company claims the Grain Belt Express, which would run wind energy generated in Kansas through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, would decrease wholesale electricity prices in Illinois by an estimated $750 million in the first five years of operation.
Local utilities and electric coops would buy the energy from Clean Line, which the company says would ultimately lower energy costs across all utility providers in the surrounding region.
If the project is approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, Kurt said, the company would look at starting construction as early as 2017 with a goal of having it operating as early as 2019.
“We feel confident that we have met the requirements in Illinois law to construct and maintain the Grain Belt Express,” Kurt said. “Most importantly, we believe this project will deliver great benefits to central Illinois and Illinois consumers throughout the state.”
The project has been a point of contention for some residents, who have rallied behind organizations such as Block GBE, which says it is trying to protect landowners from the 780-mile overhead project.
Block GBE said Clean Line is seeking public utility status from the Illinois Commerce Commission so it can utilize eminent domain to acquire land from unwilling landowners, that the company does not have proper funding to complete the project, and that the company simply cannot deliver the benefits it promises.
“‘Clean’ Line projects are highly speculative,” a bullet point on www.blockgbe.com says. “They have no customers on either end. ‘Clean’ Line expects the wind companies to bear all the risk.”
An interactive map of the proposed routes can be found at http://www.grainbeltexpresscleanline.com.
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