News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 31, 2012

Businesses show up to hear about Grain Belt Express

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

SULLIVAN — A proposed transmission line that will move power from Kansas-based wind energy farms and connect near Sullivan County caught the attention of many Wabash Valley firms Thursday.   

Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, an affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC of Houston, is seeking approval to deliver wind energy through a $2 billion high-voltage line through Missouri, Illinois and about 2 miles in Indiana, where it will connect with existing 765 kilovolt (KV) high-voltage transmission lines that originate in Sullivan County.

The transmission line is expected to spur construction of about 2,000 new wind turbines in Kansas, costing about $7 million. The transmission line and new wind turbines would create about 5,000 jobs.

Clean Line Energy held two public meetings Thursday at the Sullivan County Fairgrounds, with an afternoon meeting attracting steelworkers, equipment supply firms and engineering firms.

“As a company, we are committed to use local suppliers for the concrete, the steel and local suppliers for the services like surveying and construction,” said Diana Coggin, project development manager for the company.

“That is why we wanted to meet you. When it comes time to submit bids for the project, we will know who to notify,” Coggin added.

That was the reason Scott Boone, a representative of the International Ironworkers Local No. 22 of Indianapolis, attended the meeting.

“We are curious about the scope of the project. We do the foundations, the rebar in the foundations and hopefully we may get a contract for that work,” Boone said.

Mike Waugh of One Source Equipment Rental in Terre Haute said that company operates in both Illinois and Indiana, providing industrial equipment rentals. “We have seen a lot of construction from Duke Energy, which is upgrading its Merom power plant and did that already in Cayuga. We wanted to hear about this project and didn’t want to pass up on an opportunity,” Waugh said.

Pam Cox, a project assistant for Thompson Thrift in Terre Haute, said she was more interested in where the placement of the power transmission line will go. “We will have a lot of power lines going through the same area and we are just interested to see if it will go near any of our existing developments, that is our concern,” Cox said.

While a specific route has not be selected, the transmission line would start near Dodge City, Kan., travel north of Kansas City, Mo. and north of St. Louis, Mo. and south of Terre Haute to Sullivan.

The project includes a 700-mile direct current transmission line that will deliver 3,500 megawatts — 600,000 volts — of power, enough to power 1.4 million homes. That is the equivalent of the power generated by three Hoover Dams, according to the company.

Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, established in 2007, is in the process of becoming a regulated public utility in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, Coggin said. Grain Belt Express became a regulated public utility in Kansas in December 2011.

Construction on the private investment project, once all regulatory approvals are received, could begin as early as 2015, Coggin said, then take two to three years to complete.

Mike Lawlor, director of development for Clean Line Energy, said direct current transmission lines are the most effective way to move power a long distance, requiring about one third the power of alternating current lines. The lines would also only require about 150 feet right of way, half that of a alternating current line.

“A direct current line is also more controllable. You can dial D/C up and down as you need it. With A/C over a long distance, you have to add special equipment to keep the voltage at the right level. You don’t build long haul A/C as it is too expensive to build that infrastructure to keep it stable,” Lawlor said.

There are existing direct current lines on the west coast and northern Midwest as well as some that extend from Canada to the Northeast, Lawlor said.

In addition, the power supplied from a wind farm is sold wholesale to power utilities at a set price over 20 or more years. “It will allow a utility to diversity their power mix and not be overexposed to natural gas, coal or nuclear. There is no fuel costs with wind so there is long-term price stability and low-cost energy,” Lawlor said.



Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.