A proposed high voltage electrical transmission line project that will cross Palo Alto County received a resolution of support from the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Beth Conley of Clean Line Energy Partners appeared before the board to obtain the resolution, a requirement in the timetable of the construction of the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project.
The Rock Island Clean Line project was first introduced to county officials and residents during meetings in 2011, in which the concept of the project, construction of a direct-current electrical transmission line, running from a location in O'Brien County to the Chicago area.
"For a long time, transmission of electrical energy has been a real bottleneck in Iowa," Conley told the supervisors in her appearance Tuesday morning. "Our project is designed to bring that electrical power created from wind energy to where it is needed most, in markets in the eastern area of the country."
According to Conley, the Rock Island Clean Line differs from other electrical transmission lines in a major way.
"We will be moving the electricity in direct current, as opposed to the traditional alternating current transmission lines you see," Conley said. "We can move higher voltages, 500 to 600 Kilovolts, while AC lines usually handle up to 345 KV."
"Alternating Current lines can lose up to 30 percent of their voltage, while Direct Current lines only lose five percent of their voltage," Conley added. "Over greater distances, that's why you go with the DC line."
Conley noted that the Rock Island Clean line would be constructed with single poles, rather than the traditional two-pole structures. "The distances between our poles range from 300 to 500 feet, and with our smaller poles, we require a smaller footprint for a right-of-way. That equates to five to seven poles per mile."
The right-of-way would range from 140 to 200' in width, with a minimum distance of at least 100 feet from any permanent structure, but engineers prefer a distance of 500 to 1,000 feet from the transmission line, according to Conley.
Because Clean Line is now just beginning the procedures prescribed by the Iowa Utilities Board, Conley could not comment on any type of financial disclosures for landowners along the potential transmission line corridor.
"I can say that easement fees would be determined based on a percentage of value, along with a set value per pole, which could be paid in a lump sum or on an annually basis," Conley said. "And, we would also compensate for any damages incurred during construction of the line, as well. But until we hold the public hearings locally, we cannot discuss specifics in accordance with the Utilities Board regulations."
Conley did note that under Iowa law, an excise tax of $7,000 per mile is set forth annually, and that excise tax is divided among any taxing entities that the line would cross through. Preliminary study corridors for a transmission line route have identified the southern portion of Palo Alto County as a preferred route from west to east.
According to Conley, the public hearings for the Utilities Board are expected to begin in the late summer or early fall of this year.
"We have agreements in place with Siemens Technology for the converter station that will be built in Center Township in O'Brien County," Conley noted. "That is where the energy generated from wind farms will be converted into the DC current that will travel across the Rock Island Line into Illinois and points east, where it will provide power for up to 14 million homes."
Other agreements have been arranged with Kiewet Technologies for engineering, construction and procurement, and Southwind, an Illinois-based firm, for the actual transmission cable for the project.
With an estimated construction cost of $2.1 billion, the project is completely privately funded. With a transmission capacity of 3500 Megawatts of power, the Rock Island Clean Line will carry three times of the amount of electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
"It is our hope to be able to hold the public hearings and landowner meetings later this summer and fall," Conley said, "and then to hopefully be taking power across the line in 2016-2017."
To comply with part of the Utilities Board requirements, Supervisor Jerry Hofstad moved to introduce and adopt a resolution of support for the Rock Island Clean Line Electric Transmission Project. With a second from Supervisor Ed Noonan, the board approved the resolution on a unanimous roll-call vote.