FERC approves Iowa-to-Ill. renewable power line

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012

Federal regulators yesterday gave Clean Line Energy Partners permission to begin signing customers up for its proposed 500-mile transmission line that will ship wind power from northwestern Iowa to Chicago.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Texas-based Clean Line Energy can begin selling capacity on its proposed $1.7 billion Rock Island Clean Line project, a high-voltage direct-current line that will transfer up to 3,500 megawatts of wind power in Iowa — as well as other generation in Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota — to Grundy County in Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago.

The project is expected to be operational by 2017.

“This approval marks an important step forward in the steady progress of our Rock Island Clean Line project, which will bring considerable benefits to the existing grid by delivering low-cost clean wind power from northwest Iowa and the surrounding region to Illinois and states to the east,” Michael Skelly, Clean Line’s president, said in a statement.

Inadequate transmission is currently curbing the amount of wind power that can be shipped out of northwestern Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, Clean Line said.

The Rock Island line will support construction of about 2,000 new wind turbines in Iowa, which represents an investment of about $7 billion, the company said.

Clean Line is building three other high-voltage direct-current lines in the central United States to move remote pockets of renewable power into urban hubs. The lines can be more expensive to build but are efficient at moving large amounts of power over long distances.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) applauded FERC’s approval of the project and the number of potential jobs and amount of investment it will bring to their states.