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Clean Line Energy officials explain plans for line

POSTED: February 8, 2013 7:00 a.m.
Alan Rusch/

Landowners inspect graphics that show the possible routes of the proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line.

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 Officials from the Houston, Texas-based Clean Line Energy Partners introduced their proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line during a public meeting Jan. 30 in Russell.

Similar public meetings also took place last week in Lincoln, Great Bend, Dodge City, Larned, Osborne, Beloit and Concordia.
“We’re trying to address a big challenge we have in the electric generation business of connecting this great wind resource that we have up and down the middle of the country with the demand for energy farther east,” said Mark Lawlor, Clean Line Energy Partners director of development.  “Right now, the grid is full. There is not enough additional capacity to move wind energy multiple states away.”
That is where the $2 billion Grain Belt Express Line project comes in.
“The name of the game is how do you move wind energy long distances to the demand centers?” Lawlor said.
Grain Belt Express Clear Line is one of four long-haul, high voltage, direct current transmission lines that Clean Line Energy Partners is working on in the central United States to do just that.
According to Lawlor, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a 700-mile-long, overhead line that will deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind power from southwestern Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states further east.
“That allows us to serve a broad resource area,” he said. “Not just one utility, not just one state — but a whole region of the United States.”
Wind farms across Kansas currently produce a little more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy.
“We’re going to double that just for this one transmission line,” Lawlor said. “That translates into a lot of jobs.”
Clean Line Energy estimates 5,000 jobs could be created for construction of new wind farms that will take advantage of what the Grain Belt Express has to offer — with most of them created here in the Sunflower State. These new wind farms will buy capacity from Clean Line Energy, which will pay for the transmission line over time.
“Kansas also has a lot of wind manufacturing, and we’re growing that more and more,” Lawlor said.
He pointed to the Siemens plant in Hutchinson, which builds wind turbines, as an example.
“They are a major player in the business, and they create a lot of jobs here in Kansas,” Lawlor said. “But what is even more exciting than that is all the suppliers that feed into Siemens. Those are growing all over the state.”
Lawlor said direct current lines allow large amounts of power to be transmitted more efficiently over long distances using a single line, instead of multiple lines as is the case when using traditional alternating current lines. He said direct current lines also have less impact on the land since less right-of-way is required for it.
 “At the end of the day, the goal is to have a line that minimizes impact,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor said Clean Line Energy has taken extra steps to identify local vendors along each of the potential transmission routes under consideration for the Grain Belt Express.
“It’s a big civil works project, so a couple of weeks ago, we held a round of local vendor meetings for folks to learn about our project and for us to collect information from them,” Lawlor said. “So when the time comes to bid out some of this work, they know about it and they have the ability to bid in and participate. We really are committed to finding ways to have as many of those benefits flow locally as possible.”
Two of the potential routes which the Grain Belt Express Clean Line could take go through the northwestern corner of Ellsworth County — one northwest of Wilson and one southeast of Wilson.
“Today, we’re working with landowners to help us identify all the impacts and opportunities for routing the line,” Lawlor said. “We’ll be taking down notes on where their stock ponds and oil wells are — things we need to know about when it comes down to a really detailed routing.”
 “I don’t know what to think yet,” said Gordon Mai of Wilson. “It’s all new to me.”
Mai, whose mother, Lorraine, owns land west of Russell near another route the transmission line could take, said Clean Line Energy is working hard to find the best possible route for the line.
“They are trying to work with everybody, making sure everything is right with both parties,” he said. “They have to have some way to move all this electricity.”
Lawlor said the primary focus of Clean Line Energy Partners this year will be to identify the route the Grain Belt Express will take through Kansas, then submit that selection to the Kansas Corporation Commission for approval.
“Our goal is to file in the middle of the year, and then to have a decision out of the commission by the end of the year,” Lawlor said.
Construction of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line could take place as early as 2016.

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