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Getting a line on the RICL story

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 4:47 p.m. CDT

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about the proposed Rock Island Clean Line transmission project. PRINCETON — Many Bureau County residents are up in arms about the proposed Rock Island Clean Line energy project, a transmission line that would carry wind-produced electricity from the Great Plains through Iowa and Illinois. Signs protesting the project have popped up near Route 92, and a meeting was held in Mendota last month by Block RICL in an effort to stop the project. It’s even been the topic of conversation at a recent Bureau County Board meeting. On Tuesday, Hans Detweiler, director of development for Clean Line Energy Partners, and former state Sen. Todd Sieben stopped by the Bureau County Republican to clarify what they believe are some misunderstandings about the proposed transmission line Detweiler said the best wind resources in the country are in a wide band running from North and South Dakota and into Nebraska and Kansas, far away from the strongest transmission systems. In Illinois, the strongest part of the electric grid is in the eastern part of the state, starting with a line running from Plano to Morris and then east. “We would tap that line near Morris,” Detweiler said. Detweiler said Clean Line is working on four different projects in the country, including the Rock Island project, which would run from northwestern Iowa into Illinois. “We like the name as a metaphor for a farm to market road, in the same sense the railroad was built because farmers couldn’t get their product to market,” he said. While it’s uncertain how much of the energy would remain in Illinois, Detweiler said the main benefit will be the impact on market prices for electricity in the state. “We’re going to be delivering a lot of additional renewable power,” he said. “We’re delivering 100 percent of that energy into Illinois, and we’re going to impact market prices. And that’s going to be good for consumers in Illinois.” Detweiler said there are also people saying a private company like Clean Line shouldn’t become a private utility. “Well, Ameren’s a private company; MidAmerican’s a private company; ComEd’s a private company; Nicor is a private company. All of these utilities are private companies,” he said. “The question is are they providing a public benefit? That’s the case we have to make.” Another misunderstanding is about the transmission poles the company would use. Despite rumors that lattice structures with a 28-by-28-foot base will definitely be used, Detweiler said they haven’t made a final engineering choice between those and monopole-type structures. The monopole structures have a narrower footing, but because they are shorter, more per mile are needed. “There’s all kinds of considerations that will be made about what type of pole will be used,” Sieben said. “Once you get into the specific route, you’ll be working with the individual landowner, what makes the most sense in that particular section of the route.” Detweiler said another factor is steel prices because there is a lot more steel in a monopole than in a lattice. RICL had applied to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for public utility status in October 2010 but recently withdrew its application. Detweiler said a new application will be filed in the next several weeks and will include the company’s preferred route and an alternative route. Detweiler said the first application was withdrawn at the request of the ICC. “The commission staff said, ‘You know what, we would rather wait until you actually submit a line and a route for approval,’” he said. See Saturday’s BCR for more details about the project and exactly what the company will do on the subject of eminent domain. Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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