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Power line could spur new Iowa turbines

By Staff | Dec 16, 2010

Cary Kottler, of Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, Texas.

Exploring the possibility of stretching a 500-mile, high-voltage, direct-current line across Iowa was the subject of a non-public meeting Wednesday in Fort Dodge with local government and development leaders in four counties.

The meeting, said Cary Kottler, of Clean Line Energy Partners, was the first stage in determining if the new electric transmission system could be routed through or near Wesbter County. Officials from the counties of Webster, Hamilton, Humboldt and Wright were invited to Wednesday’s meeting.

Similar meetings were held earlier this week in Sioux City and Storm Lake and another is scheduled tonight in Nevada. Kottler said meetings will continue to be held in communities across Iowa and Illinois during the next few months.

Kottler said that, so far, community leaders have been receptive to the idea of the project. “Iowans understand the benefit that wind energy can bring,” Kottler said.

CLEP is determined to create as little disturbance on the land as possible, he said, while creating the transmission system, preferring to follow section lines, railroad right-of-ways, and waterways. Following the slate of Iowa and Illinois community meetings, CLEP planners will be taking the information gathered and propose one or several potential corridors, each 5 to 10 miles wide, for stretching the line.

At that point, Kottler said, “we’ll be coming back to communities for public hearings.

“We want to be as transparent as possible.”

This is the fourth new line CLEP has planned and designed. The other three include:

  • Plains and Eastern Clean lines, stretching from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Memphis, Tenn.
  • Grain Belt Express Clean Lines, stretching from Western Kansas to St. Louis, Mo
  • Centennial West Clean Lines, stretching from Eastern New Mexico to Southern California.

Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, Texas, is calling the Iowa project Rock Island Clean Line, which could possibly follow the former Rock Island Railroad corridor. However, Kottler said, no definitive decision has been made to use any or part of the former railroad right-of-ways for the HVDC line.

Kottler acknowledged that right-of-way agreements will need to be secured along whichever corridor is eventually selected. He said that some condemnation proceedings could be part of the process. “But that would be our last resort,” he said. He explained that condemnation could be used to clean up unclear landownership, or properties locked in probate action.

A whole slate of federal, state and local permits will also be required, especially if the line should cross waterways. CLEP is also working out potential interconnect agreements.

A need to move power

According to Hans Detweiler, CLEP’s director of development, the intent is to spur additional wind turbine farm creation in Northwest Iowa, Northeast Nebraska and Southwest South Dakota.

CLEP’s website (www.clealineenergy.com) said there is a potential of erecting as many as 2,000 new wind turbines, creating 3,500 megawatts of power, which would then be transferred from near Sioux City to Rock Island, Ill. From there, it would be used to supply power to Chicago and farther east. Potentially, there are 14 states that could benefit from the extra electricity.

The HVDC line would transmit enough electricity to power 1.4 million households. “That’s more than Minnesota uses in a year,” Detweiler said. In 2009, Iowa’s wind energy capabilities grew by 10,000 megawatts. This project would be roughly 25 percent of that single year’s advance, he added.

Kottler said that the $1.7 billion transmission line, could spur an additional $7 billion in wind turbine investments within the three states, although CLEP would not be involved in creating those farms. He said there is the potential for a substantial number of the turbines to be erected in Northwest Iowa.

Detweiler said this is the start of a four-phase, six-year development plan. “Right now we are at phase one-half.”

Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, said that Midwest wind energy generation grew by 40 percent for each of the past several years, until construction of turbines came to a near halt in 2010.

“There’s plenty of wind of there,” Skelly said, there’s just not an efficient transmission system. “We need to get the harvested wind energy to places that need it.” Concerning the 3,500MW of new generation, he added, “This is a significant amount of power.”

Detweiler noted that the recent lack of growth of wind energy in the Midwest is due in part to a slow economy, but also to a lack of an efficient transmission method of getting power to urban areas that need it.

“The primary purpose of (the HVDC) line is to move electricity from the west side of the state to (eastern urban communities) which need it,” Kottler said.

Because of the federal regulations that require line owners to allow interconnecting, Detweiler said there is the likelihood of additional revenue by other entities moving power along the system.

John Kramer, president of the Development Corporation of Fort Dodge and Webster County, favors the concept of the project.

Kramer said that to expand the Midwest’s wind generation capacity, the existing grid system “is not up to this kind of development. The grid system is a limiting aspect of wind farm development.”

In a Nov. 29 article, it was believed the Clean Lines transmission system could be a boon of wind energy generation for Webster County. However, Kottler said, that likely would not happen.

“Picture this line as an electric highway with very few on and off ramps,” Kottler said. The intent is to exclusively carry power from the western side of Iowa to eastern markets.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453, or kersh@farm-news.com.

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