The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 27, 2014

Wind energy transmission plan topic of talk at MARET Center

NEOSHO, Mo. — Cari VanAmburg, an analyst with Clean Line Energy Partners, on Thursday presented details of plans to build lines to transmit wind energy across the country.

She talked to students and others at the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology Center at Crowder College.

“Clean Line will be the interstate highway system, so to speak,” VanAmburg said.

She said Clean Line is pursuing five projects simultaneously. The project in northern Missouri is called the Grain Belt Express. It would be a 750-mile overhead, direct current transmission line that would deliver wind energy from western Kansas to utilities and customers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states to the east.

VanAmburg said Clean Line hopes to have regulatory approval by 2015, with construction starting in 2016 and the line in operation in 2018.

“We’re still a few years out,” she said.

She said the transmission route in Kansas has been approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission, and the company plans to file for regulatory approval of the Missouri route with the Missouri Public Service Commission within 60 days. She said she was seeking letters of support for that effort from those attending Thursday’s session.

VanAmburg said the Grain Belt Express project would represent a $2 billion investment and could result in $7 billion worth of new wind farm investments. It would involve 500-plus operations jobs and 5,000-plus construction jobs when it’s being built. It would power an equivalent of 1.4 million homes per year and provide millions of dollars in property tax revenue where the project is built, she said.

Among environmental benefits touted, it would reduce carbon dioxide pollution by 10.8 million tons per year and mercury pollution by 178 pounds per year.

VanAmburg said Kansas wind farms are producing 2,000 megawatts of power right now.

“It’s just barely scratching the surface of what can be produced there,” she said. The Clean Line plan would double the amount of production capability.

She said Clean Line would charge a tariff to utilities for use of its lines.

VanAmburg said the project would use high-voltage direct current lines.

“Direct current is very good for carrying a large amount of power long distances,” she said. “It also is efficient. There’s less line lossage, and a smaller footprint requires a narrower right of way. It’s less impact on landowners.”

She said Missouri now produces 81 percent of its electric power from coal, while 1 percent is from renewable sources.

“Wind provides a hedge against the fluctuations of the commodities market,” she said. “It provides stability.”

VanAmburg said wind power producers in Kansas are anticipating the project.

“The wind developers in Kansas are well aware, and they’re ready,” she said.

She said more than 30 businesses in Missouri are involved in wind energy. Those include Able Manufacturing and Assembly, and FAG Bearings Corp., both in Joplin.

Paul Wooster, 37, of Neosho, is a student in Crowder’s alternative energy program. He said he was encouraged about the career possibilities represented by the project. He graduates in May after having previously worked in construction.

“Knowing that there’s a coming opportunity in the wind industry for me is exciting,” Wooster said.

Wooster said he thinks the wind industry can provide more stability for his growing family than the seasonal construction industry did.

Preferred providers

CLEAN LINE ENERGY PARTNERS, based in Houston, in January entered into agreements with manufacturers in St. Louis, Sedalia and Centralia to be its preferred providers on the Grain Belt Express transmission line project.

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