Clean wind-powered energy from Oklahoma will probably be coming to, and through, Mississippi County in the near future, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are supposed to be coming with it. The energy will be delivered to Arkansas, the Mid-South and to the entire nine-state southeastern section of the United States. The price of energy is expected to be around 4-6 cents per kilowatt-hour, and it is hoped that prices will be stable and somewhat fixed, since wind power has no fuel cost attached.
The Plains & Eastern Clean Line (PECL) is a $2 billion dollar ($500 million in Arkansas alone), seven hundred mile, overhead, direct current (DC) transmission line that will deliver more than 3,500 megawatts of “low cost wind power”. That wattage is more than three times the energy produced by the Hoover Dam, or enough to power a million homes. The transmission project will begin in the Oklahoma panhandle near Guymon, Okla. and will end at a point just northeast of Memphis. Construction could begin as early as 2016. Not only does the company promise to provide low-cost energy to Arkansas, but to also create hundreds of manufacturing and construction jobs here in Arkansas.
Projections anticipate that approximately 16 miles of the line will run through Mississippi County itself, with an estimated investment of $33 million from the company. Additionally, one time, upfront infrastructure construction payments are expected to be $122,250 with and additional $300,000 in annual ad valorem payments. The proposed route through Mississippi County will run west to east and will be located north of Birdsong and just south of Joiner.
Experts say that DC lines are far more efficient than the former alternating current (AC) lines. DC lines only lose about 10 percent energy while AC power lines can lose up to 33 percent in transit. This direct current (DC) line will require, at least in Arkansas, a 150-200 feet wide easement in order to construct, operate and maintain the transmission line. Landowners will be allowed to continue farming the land within the easement and it is expected that less than one percent of the easement properties will be taken out of production. Landowners are promised 100 percent of fair market value, as determined by a market study of recent fee sales in each county conducted by independent appraisers.
Additionally, structure payments will be calculated based upon the type of structure selected by Clean Line to be built upon the specific property. Annual payments will be made as long as the structure is on the easement property and will include a two percent annual escalator, after the first payment has been made. There are four types of structures that may be built: monopole, lattice mast, lattice or guyed lattice mast structures. Landowners will also be compensated for any damages incurred, such as crop damage, irrigation or drainage interference, and commercially marketable timber that is cleared. It is estimated that Arkansas landowners will be paid more than $30 million for easements, upfront structure payments, etc.
Nevertheless, some including Sen. John Boozman-R and Sen. Tom Cotton-R, both U.S. Senators from Arkansas, have expressed concern about the potential of federal government overreach with projects such as this. In fact, according to a joint press release, they introduced legislation back in February to “restore the right of states” to decide about transmission projects before the federal government exercises the right of eminent domain over desired private property.
The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act would require the approval of both the governor and the Public Service Commission of any state before the federal government could exercise eminent domain over private properties within that state for such transmission projects. It would also ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that approved projects are placed on federal land rather than on private land. It went on to quote a 2011 report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, “The location and permitting of facilities used to transmit electricity to residential and commercial customers have been the province of the states (with limited exceptions) for virtually the entire history of the electricity industry.” The report also says, “state and local governments are ‘well positioned’ to understand the concerns of the area and the factors for making a decision on these projects.”
Sen. Boozman said, via press release, “When a road, pipeline or power line is built the use of eminent domain is sadly unavoidable in some cases. However, this difficult decision should not be in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. If a project is not good for Arkansas, our governor or public service commission should have the power to say ‘no.'”
Sen. Cotton agrees, “Arkansans should have a say in any decision that affects our land,” Cotton said. “The APPROVAL act will rightly empower Arkansans and preserve the Founding Fathers vision of states’ rights.”
Back in February, all six members of Arkansas’ delegation, from both houses of Congress, formally requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) extend the comment period of the need and feasibility review of the project by 60 days. They requested this extension due to what they believe was “inadequate communication to let stakeholders know they can submit their input on this project.”
Senator Cotton’s Arkansas Media Relations Director Jancey Sheats said, “Senator Cotton is focused on ensuring all affected stakeholders are able to weigh-in on the Clean Line decision. With recent changes to Clean Line’s route through Arkansas, he believes Arkansans, and the state Public Service Commission should have a say in any decision that affects our land.”
“Clean Line takes private property rights very seriously and values one-on-one conversations with landowners to answer questions and address concerns. We will continue to work with Senator Boozman and Senator Cotton, state leadership and the people of Arkansas to follow the appropriate processes that ensure a fair hearing for all involved,” Clean Line Partners said, responding to both Senators’ concerns in a press release of their own.
Additionally, the United States Department of Energy is evaluating plans for an intermediate converter station to be located in central Arkansas. Clean Line announced that the station would result in an additional $100 million investment in the state of Arkansas and would deliver what the company describes as “500 megawatts of clean, affordable and domestic power” to Arkansas.
The PECL promises to deliver enough energy to meet the needs of approximately 160,000 homes in Arkansas annually while also decreasing both production emissions contaminants and water usage system wide. The company predicts that emission reductions will include approximately 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, 5 thousand tons of nitrogen oxide, 11 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide and 194 pounds of mercury each year.
Arkansas Counties, through which the project will run, will also receive an estimated $5 million annual ad valorem payments to be used for local schools and other community services. Clean Line has also committed itself to paying more than $2 million in “voluntary” infrastructure payments to Arkansas counties.
It is anticipated that the project will also boost existing local businesses in the state in other ways as well. The PECL has already agreed to purchase over 700 miles of conductor for the project from the General Cable factory in Malvern, Ark. Also, European owned Sediver will build and operate a new state of the art manufacturing facility and testing laboratory in order to source hundreds of thousands of glass insulators for the Clean Line. It is also hoped that other companies such as blade manufacturer LM Wind Power in Little Rock, who is already involved with wind energy and transmission supply chains, will receive increased orders as the project progresses as well.
Plans were also announced in February by Texas based Dragonfly Industries, International, largely due to the transmission line project, that they plan to build Arkansas’ first wind farm as a result of the Clean Line. They hope to build dozens of wind turbines on 300+ acres of land near Elm Springs, Ark. Total investment on is expected to be over $100 million.
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