November 14, 2015

Illinois approves Grain Belt Express transmission line

By Jacob Barker | St Louis Post-Dispatch | November 12, 2015 |

A 780-mile transmission line to carry Kansas wind power to cities farther east won approval from Illinois regulators Thursday, leaving Missouri as the lone holdout blocking the project.

The Illinois Commerce Commission voted 3-2 to approve Clean Line Energy’s transmission line route through the state. The line, dubbed the Grain Belt Express, would stretch from Kansas to Indiana and deliver about 4,000 megawatts of wind power into the electric grid.

“We appreciate the ICC’s careful review of our application and are encouraged by Illinois’ recognition of the public benefits brought forth by this critical infrastructure project,” Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, said in a statement.

Rural landowners along the route have been critical of the project and fear the developers will acquire easements through their land using eminent domain. The project’s backers say these types of cross-state transmission projects are necessary to deliver renewable energy from sparsely populated regions into the electric grid.

“We are disappointed by today’s decision, but it was not unexpected,” Block Grain Belt Express President Dave Buchman said in a statement. “It is imperative for members of the opposition to remain united in our common goal of preserving property rights.”

Grain Belt Express has already won approval from Kansas and Indiana. But earlier this year, the Missouri Public Service Commission sided with rural landowners and voted 3-2 to block the project.

Clean Line said it would now focus on winning approval in Missouri. It could refile its application in Missouri or seek approval through federal law, a strategy it is pursuing in Arkansas, where regulators denied another Clean Line transmission project.

If approved, Grain Belt Express could deliver about 500 out of 4,000 megawatts of power into the electric grid serving eastern Missouri and downstate Illinois. Most of the power would probably be delivered into the PJM Interconnection grid, which serves Chicago and the Mid-Atlantic region, according to the ICC.

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