Clean Line files for Missouri approval of Grain Belt Express transmission project

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Clean Line Energy Partners on March 26 submitted an application with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) for a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the ±600-kV Grain Belt Express transmission line.

“The project will bring low-cost energy to Missouri, we’re going to deliver enough for about 200,000 homes to help Missouri meet its renewable energy standard,” Diana Rivera, Clean Line’s director of development, told TransmissionHub on March 26. “It’s going to bring a lot of economic development benefits to Missouri and the region, including Illinois.”

The application requested authority to construct, own, operate, control, manage and maintain electric transmission facilities in the counties of Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls, as well as a converter station in Ralls County.

Grain Belt Express is a $2.2bn, 750-mile project that originates in Spearville, Kan., and terminates in St. Francois, Mo. Of the $2.2bn and 750 miles, $500m and 206 miles are attributable to the Missouri portion of the project.

The project is designed to deliver low-cost wind energy from western Kansas to the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) and PJM Interconnection markets farther east. The project, as proposed, will run 370 miles from near Dodge City, Kan., to the Kansas-Missouri border where it will cross the Missouri River, continue 206 miles in Missouri, another 200 miles in Illinois and finally interconnect with the Sullivan 765-kV substation in southwestern Indiana near the Illinois/Indiana border, according to the application.

Grain Belt Express also involves three converter stations: one in western Kansas, where new wind facilities will connect to the line via AC lines, one in eastern Missouri and one in eastern Illinois, to deliver electricity to transmission owners in MISO and PJM, respectively.

The converter station in eastern Missouri, in Ralls County, will facilitate the connection of up to 500 MW of wind generation to the AC grid via Ameren Missouri’s Maywood-Montgomery 345-kV transmission line.

“This interconnection will enhance the reliability of the electric transmission network in Missouri by connecting geographically diverse parts of the electric grid and by providing a new source of electricity for Missouri,” the company said.

The route that the Missouri portion of the line proposes to take crosses the Missouri River south of St. Joseph and continues east across the state to south of Hannibal in Ralls County, where the line will cross the Mississippi River into Illinois, the company said.

Clean Line retained consulting firms Louis Berger and POWER Engineers to assist in the development of the proposed route.

Clean Line will pay for the development, construction and operation of the project and plans to recover the costs by selling transmission service to wind generators and load serving entities that use the line. Costs of the line will not be borne by ratepayers through the cost allocation processes of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), Midcontinent MISO or PJM Interconnection.

The company expects to file for approval with Illinois regulators in 2015, Rivera said. Clean Line expects to ramp up its public outreach and routing work in Illinois later this year, she added.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in 2016, and will occur simultaneously in all of the states, Rivera said. Clean Line estimates the project to be complete in 2018.

‘Clear and substantial need’ exists for project

As proposed, Grain Belt Express will transport wind generation in Kansas to markets east. In the application, Clean Line noted that the response to a request for information (RFI) it issued to wind generators yielded 13,500 MW of wind power. The total capacity of the project is 3,500 MW. “This shows a clear and substantial need for transmission service and its capacity to supply substantial amounts of wind generation to Missouri and other states in the MISO and PJM regions,” the company said. “The vast majority of these wind projects have not begun construction because the lack of transmission infrastructure prevents them from participating in the large and growing markets for renewable energy.”

As originally conceived, Grain Belt was to be a 550-mile transmission line running from Kansas to Missouri, but an interconnection study conducted by MISO revealed that upgrades to the Missouri grid would be so substantial they would render the project uneconomic, Rivera said.

“So, we extended the project to reach the higher voltage system and now we interconnect with the 765-kV system, rather than 345-kV system receiving all the power in Missouri,” Rivera said. That decision was made in the fall of 2012.

Project specifics

The project will use lattice, lattice mast and tubular steel monopole structures, the choice of which will be based on specific conditions at particular locations or in particular segments of the project, the company said.

Most structures will be between 110 feet and 150 feet tall, with taller structures likely required at river crossings and in other situations where longer span lengths are required.

The Ralls County converter station will sit on 40 acres to 65 acres and will utilize both high-voltage and low-voltage equipment.

The typical width of the right-of-way (ROW) is expected to be between 150 feet and 200 feet.

“Landowners will be able to use the HVDC line right-of-way for most agricultural purposes (including growing crops under 10 feet in height) provided it does not interfere with the use of the project by Grain Belt Express and is not hazardous to the landowner, the project or to the public generally,” the company said.

No structures will be allowed in the ROW and trees and vegetation will need to be trimmed or removed.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Nov. 7, 2013, approved the project’s siting permit, and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on May 22, 2013, granted the company utility status in the state.

Grain Belt Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Grain Belt Express Holding, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners. The primary owners of Clean Line are GridAmerica Holdings and Clean Line Investor Corp., a subsidiary of ZAM Ventures. GridAmerica is a subsidiary of National Grid USA, which is a subsidiary of National Grid plc.

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