Wind energy transmission lines might be on their way to Illinois

2 min read
20 April, 2015

Wind energy generated on the rolling plains of Kansas could soon find its way to eastern sockets.

According to Utility Dive, Clean Line Energy Providers has announced plans to build a transmission line dubbed the Grain Belt Express to feed inexpensive renewable energy into regional grids eastward. If CLEP receives the support from the each of the state governments involved, the structure could be up and running before the end of the decade.

"Illinois stands to trim $750 million from its wholesale energy prices in the first five years."

A long wire meets short tempers
This high voltage DC current energy transmission system will deliver wind energy generated in southwest Kansas up through Missouri and into Illinois, connecting where it can to already existing infrastructure. However, if approval for the proposal goes through without adjustment, CLEP will need to construct hundreds of miles of transmission lines bisecting Missouri and Illinois. Both states have not yet reached a decision on the matter. Kansas along with Indiana - whose energy market is poised to benefit greatly from Illinois' agreement - approved CLEP's Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. This grants the transmission developer the rights to operate within the approving states.

While CLEP filed Indiana's CPCN just a few days ago, that does not indicate a speedy return. Missouri has been mulling over theirs for more than a year. The Illinois Commerce Commission has already announced it will study the two paths CLEP proposed over the next six to eight months before reaching a conclusion.

A bid of this magnitude does have its detractors. Block GBE, opponents of the transmission infrastructure, cite numerous reasons as to why Missouri, the linchpin between Kansas and Illinois, should not go through with the project. According to its website, the main focus of this organization's ire centers around the idea that allowing CLEP to operate within Missouri not only gives it power over its landowners by way of eminent domain, but that this whole enterprise is merely a front to access a wider share of the transmission market.

CLEP hopes to bring wind energy to eastern grids.CLEP hopes to bring wind energy to eastern grids.

CLEP lowers market prices, repays landowners
If completed, the Grain Belt Express will reportedly deliver more than 3500 megawatts of renewable energy not only to Missouri and Illinois, but to MISO and PJM regional transmission operators who service much of the northeast and mid-atlantic states. Missouri will automatically be slated 500 megawatts upon participation.

According to CLEP's website, in the initial five years of the Grain Belt Express's operation, Illinois stands to trim $750 million from its wholesale energy prices. By saturating the market with low cost energy, retail energy providers and utilities will be able to cut generation and transmission costs.

Additionally, CLEP has already developed a landowner compensation plan for homeowners housing electrical towers on their property. Depending on the type of structure, residents can receive annual payments in the hundreds or lump sum in the tens of thousands. The transmission organization will also compensate landowners and farmers for any damage done to crops, irrigation systems, or commercial timber during construction.

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