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Published on March 7th, 2012 | by Andrew


Big Wind, Renewable Energy Boost as Illinois Gov. Quinn Announces Rock Island Clean Line Project Labor Agreement

March 7th, 2012 by  

Photo courtesy Clean Line Energy Partners

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn yesterday announced a project labor agreement between Rock Island Clean Line and Flora, Ill.-based Southwire that over a three-year period “will support wind turbine and transmission manufacturing in Illinois and create 1,450 union construction jobs. “The Rock Island Clean Line will enable some $7 billion worth of investments in new wind energy projects to move forward, which today cannot be constructed due to lack of transmission,” according to an Illinois Government News Network (IGNN) press release.

The $2 billion Rock Island Clean Line transmission line will deliver 3,500 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to communities and businesses across Illinois and other states to the east. Construction is expected to begin as early as 2014 and continue over the next few years. “The project will “allow Illinois greater access to low-cost clean wind energy and will deliver enough energy to power more than 1.4 million Midwest homes,” according to IGNN’s press release.

In addition to creating clean energy construction jobs, building the Rock Island Clean Line overhead high voltage direct current (OHVDC) transmission line will boost clean energy manufacturing in Illinois and the Midwest, Gov. Quinn stressed in announcing the project at an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Regional Wind Energy Summit in Chicago.

Wind, Renewable Energy Powering Economic Recovery

Developing Illinois’ wind and renewable energy resources has been a focal point of Gov. Quinn’s administration. The Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandates that renewable energy resources are to supply 25% of Illinois’ electricity needs by 2025. Seventy-five percent of that is to come from wind energy.

“We have created in less than a decade in Illinois a wind energy industry that not only has construction, it has all this work on transmission which takes a lot of effort by a lot of different people,” Gov. Quinn pointed out at the AWEA conference. “All those folks involved in all the components parts of a wind turbine. This is really a giant industry.”

There are 2,743 MW of wind generation installed in Illinois, enough to power nearly 1 million homes, and 523 MW of new wind is now under construction, according to the AWEA. There were more wind turbines installed in Illinois than any other state in 2011, with 404 turbines erected last year.

In addition, the AWEA noted that the Chicago-area is home to the U.S. or global headquarters of 14 wind developers or manufacturers, more than any other U.S. city. Illinois is also home to hundreds of companies in wind component manufacturing, supply chain, or that provide services to the industry.

Transmission Lines Key to Renewable Energy Projects, Clean Energy Job Growth

Operating in Flora, Illinois for more than 40 years Southwire is to supply the overhead transmission cable for the Rock Island Clean Line project. Approximately 500 miles of overhead transmission cable will be needed when all is said and done, and that will create thousands of clean energy and manufacturing jobs.

Clean Line Energy is committed to sourcing as many of the needed materials as possible from local companies in the Rock Island Clean Line project area,” Clean Line President Michael Skelly said. “We are excited to work with Southwire on a project that will power Illinois homes and businesses with clean energy.

“We believe it is increasingly important to invest in energy infrastructure in order to contribute to local economies, create new jobs in America and improve energy security. We look forward to continuing to work with Illinois authorities, state leaders and communities as our project moves forward.”

“Transmission cable demand of this magnitude enables Southwire to continue its 60+ year leadership position in energy cable manufacturing and to contribute to the vitality of communities in which we operate such as Flora, Illinois,” added Charlie Murrah, president of Southwire’s Energy Division.

A study conducted by Illinois State University found that wind energy in Illinois supports local economies by generating $22.2 million in annual property taxes, and supports nearly 600 permanent jobs and over 13,000 construction jobs, according to an Illinois State University study cited in IGNN’s press release.

All-American Renewable Energy

Announcing the Rock Island Clean Line project labor agreement, Gov. Quinn highlighted the magnitude of the project and stressed its benefits, not only in terms of generating clean, renewable energy and long-term job creation in construction and manufacturing, but also in terms of the principal role renewable energy investment is playing in terms of enhancing US energy independence and security.

“Lots and lots of people want to be able to rely on renewable energy. We don’t want to be dependent on foreign potentates who have a stranglehold over energy supply. We don’t want to be beholden to them. Often times they don’t have any regard for democracy. We’ve got to have our own independent, all-American energy and we’ve got to build the infrastructure to deliver that to where it’s needed, not only in the Midwest but in the East Coast.”

“Just in this recovery period in Illinois, we’ve created almost 20,000 new manufacturing jobs– that’s made in Illinois and made in America. We can manufacture with any country in the world; we’re the best in the world,” the governor declared. “We’ve got to really understand that we’ve got excellent men and women who know how to get things done right when it comes to manufacturing, and this project is a huge investment in Illinois manufacturing. That’s why this is so important. This is going to create lots and lots of construction jobs– I think it’s 1,450.”

“We have excellent tradesmen and women. we have people who know how to get the job done, do it right, do it under budget…We have to have those construction jobs to get this project done. It’s done under a project labor agreement to make sure that it’s done efficiently, economically, We thank our friends in labor for their commitment to working with the Rock Island Clean Line to make this a reality. It’s a huge undertaking.”

Renewable Energy: Powering 21st Century Life

Southwire, he also said, “helped electrify the South and it’s going to help electrify the whole country, because we have the folks there to take this cable and make it part of the whole system of transmission that delivers renewable, clean energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed.

“We have to have that energy to power 21st century modern life in Illinois and across our country..but we have to do this in a way so that it’s generated as friendly as possible to the environment, reducing emissions.”

The wind power market and industry is a global one that’s seen as an anchor for economic and jobs growth by a growing number of countries around the world. Heavily subsidized competition from China is putting pressure on US wind and solar energy industry players even as key federal subsidies have, or are due to expire. The wind energy production tax credit (PTC) is due to expire at the end of 2012.

“We do have to pass at the federal level the PTC that’ll help us in Illinois and all across the Midwest in continuing our movement, our grass roots movement, our American movement to all-American energy and i think this announcement today by Rock Island Clean Line and by Southwire and by our unions shows that if we put our minds to it we can make the will of the people the law of the land,” Gov. Quinn stated.

A complete recording of Gov. Quinn’s speech at the AWEA regional summit is available here.  


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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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