The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Transmission Line To Carry Wind Power Across the US Midwest Sparks Controversy

The windy plains of Kansas could be a treasure trove in the nation's effort to harness clean energy, but a major proposal to move wind-generated electricity eastward is running into a roadblock: Farmers who don't want high-power transmission lines on their land.

Clean Line Energy Partners wants to spend $2.2 billion to build a 750-mile-long high-voltage overhead transmission line. Towers 110 to 150 feet tall, 4-6 per mile, would carry lines with power generated by Kansas' wind turbines through sparsely populated northern Missouri, through the cornfields of Illinois and to a substation in Sullivan, Ind. The exact route has not been finalized.

The idea is supported by environmental groups who say it is an opportunity to take a big step forward for an energy source that could reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and cut air pollution. Clean Line has four other transmission line projects in the works in the West and Midwest.

All five still require regulatory approval. If all goes right, the Kansas-to-Indiana line — called the Green Belt Express Clean Line — could be operational by 2018, said Mark Lawlor, director of development for Clean Line.

"There are a whole host of wind developers who are ready to go but they don't have the ability to transmit the power," Lawlor said. "But like an oil or gas field that's remotely located, you've got to find a way to get that resource to market."

Clean Line says the project will be an economic boon, with all four states seeing new jobs for construction and local companies providing things like parts and concrete. Lawlor said consumers would benefit, too, by the new source of power that would drive down electricity costs.

Randi Tveitaraas Jack, energy coordinator for the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the agency doesn't endorse individual projects, but that in general, "We're very supportive of the wind industry in Kansas and continued growth, and transmission is an important piece of that."

Both the property owner and the counties where the towers would be built stand to make money. A typical county could see $800,000 annually in property taxes, Lawlor said.

As for property owners, compensation will depend on how much easement is needed, the value of the land and other factors. Lawlor gave an example of an easement stretching half a mile across land valued at $5,000 an acre, housing two tower structures. The owner would get about $45,500 for the easement and a one-time payment of $18,000 for each structure — a total of $81,500. Owners could also opt for smaller annual payments for the structures.

Yet many landowners have organized in opposition to Clean Line. They worry about whether the towers and lines will reduce property values, get in the way of farming operations like crop-dusting and irrigation, and even create health risks for those living so close to high-voltage wires.

"This is some of our best ground," said Kent Dye, 56, who farms about 7,000 acres in northeast Missouri's Monroe County. "This line — there's no proven need for it. There are no contracts to provide power, no contracts to sell on the other end."

Then there are property rights issues. Clean Line filed an application with the Missouri Public Service Commission in January for approval to operate as a public utility, a move that would grant eminent domain rights. Similar approval would be needed in Illinois. Clean Line already operates as a public utility in Kansas and Indiana.

Many along the route worry that a private company could simply take over land that in some cases has been in families for generations.

"We have sacrificed everything for this land," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who, along with her husband, Jeff, farms a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri. "We don't go on vacation. We don't go out to eat. Everything we have is tied up in this land. The idea that somebody can come in and take it from us is appalling and it goes against what it is to be an American."

Lawlor said the company prefers not to use eminent domain and wants to reach agreements with landowners. He also cited studies showing that power lines and towers have no effect on property values.

"When they sit down and talk to us and get the information about the reality of the project, I think we're succeeding in clearing the air," he said.

Not as far as Gatrel is concerned.

"There are already significant barriers to farming," Gatrel said. "This would be another major barrier."

Associated Press reporter Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press

Lead image: Dutch landscape with grazing cows below the high-voltage cables and between the high-voltage masts via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

First Anniversary of The Balkan Floods Highlights Renewable Energy Market Opportunities

Ilias Tsagas, Contributor One year ago this month, severe flooding in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia killed 79 people, displaced about half a million and caused economic paralysis of the region. In the wake of these the catastrophic events, ...
Canadian Climate Goals

Canada Announces Weak Climate Target

Danielle Droitsch, NRDC Last week, Canada has announced its contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases by announcing its post-2020 target. The target announced today is off-track to the 80 percent cut by 2050 they committed to in...
Wind turbine

Forget the PTC, Wind Energy’s Real Problem Is Transmission

Adam Barber, A Word About Wind

Forget the challenges associated with government tax credits.  Do you want to know the real barrier for future North American wind market growth?

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in Brazil – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

Brazil is one of the most promising markets for wind energy.  Ranke...

Energy Storage USA 2015

Energy Storage USA is the leading conference in the United States focuse...

Wind Power Central America

Wind power projects are expected to reach 46GW of total installed capaci...

COMPANY BLOGS

SunEdison Expands Residential Market Offerings with New PPA, Sales ...

SunEdison has largely focussed on the commercial and utility-scale solar...

Are You Ready for a Natural Disaster?

Guest post by Jenna Clarke  Living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virg...

Deadline for Inclusion in Solar Power World's Top Solar Contractors...

UPDATE: The official deadline for the Solar Power World T...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS