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Clean Line selects Grundy for transmission line

Proposal aims to deliver renewable electricity to other communities

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 5:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 11:38 a.m. CDT

Clean Line Energy Partners has decided to install its transmission line in Grundy County to deliver wind energy from areas of the Midwest to the east — and it is now getting feedback from nearby residents.

The company is looking to bring its Rock Island Clean Line to deliver 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy to communities that do not have easy access to wind energy. This transmission line is one of four projects Clean Line is proposing across the country.

An open house was held Thursday at Jennifer's Garden to show the public the tentative outline options of the transmission lines going through Grundy County. Clean Line sent personal invites to residents directly in the paths and those about a quarter-mile around it. There are about 300 parcels of land within the corridors.

"The concept is to get across the Mississippi and over to Iowa. Our criteria is a straight line, which impacts the least number of landowners, and to stay a greatest distance from homes," said Hans Detweiler, director of development.

The transmission lines will result in billions of dollars invested in wind farms, putting thousands to work building turbine materials and constructing the turbines. In addition, there will be local jobs with the construction of a $250 million converter station proposed for property in Channahon. About 5,000 construction jobs are expected as a result of the entire project and more than 500 operation jobs.

If constructed, more than 1.4 million homes in the Midwest would be powered by the Rock Island line. Grundy County will be the end of this line, where the energy is converted into usable voltage and run through the old Collins substation to move the power east.

Why Grundy County?

This summer, Clean Line debated between taking their route through Kendall or Grundy counties. It chose Grundy because it wanted the use of the old Collins Station, Detweiler said.

The proposed routes go from La Salle County to Grundy, ending at Collins Station. The challenge was how to get there with the issues with Morris, such as its airport and the air regulations, he said. They also had to be mindful of the Lisbon Limestone Quarry, which is north of the airport.

The proposed route corridors follow the existing high voltage line. Generally, the route is west of Brisbin Road, east of Gun Club Road and runs toward County Line Road, north of it, and west to La Salle.

The Rock Island Clean Line plans to transport this clean power 500 miles through a high-voltage direct current transmission (HVDC) line. A direct current line allows for a lot more power to be moved than through an alternating current (AC) line. Moving direct current can be more costly, but it is more efficient.

Once the direct current hits Grundy, it will need to be converted to an alternate current for usable voltage. This will be done through a $250 million converter station that is proposed to be constructed in Channahon's village limits on property owned by Five Star. The property is on the south side of the I&M Canal and on the north side of Bungalow Road, Detweiler said.

Barb and Robert Kember farm about 600 acres within the proposed area.

"The thought of a line going right through your farm is not too desirable," Robert Kember said. "It'll affect the value of the land, I'm sure,"

But the couple is supportive of wind energy and, after hearing the details, they feel better about the concept. Clean Line shared their compensation plan to pay those landowners for towers on their land, and the use of easements on their land.

Kember's wife, Barb, was mostly worried about the potential impacts on their health being located near the electric and magnetic fields. It was explained to her by Clean Line's health expert, Amy Williams, that direct current lines' voltage does not vary like alternating lines.

If a person was to stand right in the magnetic field, it would be similar to when a person sits in front of the old bulky computer monitors, Williams said. The strength of the direct current magnetic fields are equivalent to that of the Earth's natural fields, according to the Clean Line fact sheet.

"As you move away, the lines those fields drop considerably," Williams said.

Compensation for land owners

Landowners with transmission structures on their property will be compensated, Detweiler said.

The structures will require 145- to 200-foot easements. Landowners will receive at least 90 percent of their fair market value for the easement portion of the property. Those who have structures on their property can be paid annually or in a one-time lump sum.

There are two kinds of poles that could be used: monopoles, which are 120 to 160 feet, or lattice towers, which are 120 to 200 feet.

An example based on a half-mile of right-of-way would be a land value of $8,000 per acre and 175-foot wide easement, the landowner would receive $88,320 for an easement with two monopoles or $112,320 for an easement with two lattice towers.

Additional payments can also be made if there is damage to crops, soil compaction or irrigation interference.

Construction timeline

If all goes as planned, Clean Line will apply with the state next year. Approval is expected by 2013. If so, the company will then work on financing the construction and land acquisitions before constructing.

It will be about two and a half years before the project's construction begins. When it does, it will take about three years, Detweiler said.

For more information, visit rockislandcleanline.com.

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