Henry County considered for high-voltage lines

Lisa Depies
An Invenergy worker points to work being done off to the side as the first section of a wind turbine (long white section in background) is hoisted into place Friday morning, Nov. 4. The section is the very first one of Invenergy’s planned 266 wind turbines between Woodhull and Galva. Two more sections will be added to this turbine before the blades are installed, likely later this week or early next week, weather permitting, according to a company spokesman. This location is about two and a half miles northwest of Bishop Hill (one-fourth of a mile north of the Page Street blacktop). It is owned by Clarence and Hettie Green, who do not reside in this area.

A proposal to capture wind energy in the west and transferring it to the east could bring financial benefits to Henry County.

Texas-based Clean Line Energy Partners is working to develop four long-haul, high voltage direct current transmission line projects in the United States.

Locally, the company’s Rock Island Clean Line is being designed to transfer energy created by wind turbines from western Iowa to parts of Illinois and beyond.

An existing high-voltage line truncates in Morris. Clean Line Energy Partners are hoping to extend that line 500 miles to western Iowa.

Hans Detweiler, director of development for Clean?Line Energy Partners, said many of the high-voltage lines currently in operation in the?United States were built in the 1970s to handle the nation’s nuclear energy capacity.

His company hopes to extend the lines to take advantage of the United States’ wind energy.

“We have some of the best wind resources in the world,” he explained. “The nation needs to get back to investing in the basics, and this is a way to support our energy basics.”

Representatives from Clean Line?Energy Partners were in Geneseo on Dec. 6 to meet with landowners.

Though a final route for transmission lines hasn’t been decided, two of the three options under consideration pass through Henry County. A third, northern route, passes through Whiteside County.

“We’re looking at anywhere from zero to 25 miles of line in Henry County,” said Detweiler.

A total of 300 Henry?County landowners were invited to the Dec. 6 meeting at the?Geneseo Community?Center.

Clean Line Energy Partners hope to purchase right-of-way rights from area landowners in order to install the high-voltage line.

Landowners were asked to study maps and information on the area presented by the company.

“Most people understand the need for progress and have been supportive of the project. The concerns they have tend to be very specific. For example, one farmer said he has cattle and was concerned that, during construction, access to water would be limited for the cows,” said Detweiler.

Others express concern for irrigation lines that currently run in areas where the high-voltage lines may be placed.

“It’s the residents who really help us come up with the best routes,”

said Detweiler.

As the project progresses, organizers will decide between installing monopole or lattice towers for the line.

The monopole option features a single tower with deeper footings. Lattice towers have four footings, but can be placed at shallower depths.

“Geological conditions will impact our choices. This is an area with a lot of sandy soil,” said Detweiler.

Since 2010, Clean Line officials have met with landowners. The next step for the project is to go through the process of regulatory approval, siting, permitting and to begin land acquisition.

Detweiler said he hopes actual construction of the project will start in late 2014 or early 2015.

The cost for constructing the 500-mile Rock Island Clean Line is estimated at $1.7 billion. Of that total, $500,000 million will be used to construct converter stations at each end of the line.

Rock Island Clean Line will be a direct-current line. Converter stations will be needed to switch the power to alternating current.

“Direct current is very high efficiency and the loss on the load is very low. We’ll be able to deliver more energy on the project versus alternating current,” said Detweiler.

Project costs also will include purchasing landrights. Detweiler said Clean Line Energy Partners will pay 90 percent of fair market value for easement property.

For each structure placed on a landowner’s land, the company will pay either an annual or one-time payment, depending upon the owner’s choice.

For each monopole, landowners will receive an annual payment of $500 or a one-time $6,000 payment. Lattice pole will net $1,500 annual payments or one-time $18,000 payments.

Detweiler said the company also will pay local property taxes on the poles.

“In Iowa, there’s a set $7,000-per mile, per year tax. In Illinois, there’s no set standard. Some counties don’t assess the lines,” said Detweiler.

He said the company plans to pay the Iowa rate of?$7,000-per mile, per year to Illinois counties without line assessment or to counties where the assessment rate is lower.

“We feel there needs to be some local benefit to having these lines,” explained Detweiler.

The high-voltage line is expected to produce 500 full-time jobs and up to 5,000 construction jobs over a three-year period, he said.

Once completed the Rock Island Clean Line could power as many as 1.4 million homes a year.