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Giant Wind Power Transmission Project Could Spark New Wind Rush In Wind Belt

An old project to harvest low cost wind power from the nation’s midwestern “wind belt” gets new life from the leading renewable energy comany Invenergy.

Wow, anybody remember the Grain Belt Express? No? No wonder! The massive 700-mile wind power transmission project in the US Midwest has been on the boards since at least 2011. It got off to a promising start but suffered death by a thousand cuts when state officials in Missouri balked.

Well, it looks like the naysayers forgot to cut off its head or at least sever the spinal cord, because the Grain Belt Express could come back to walk the Earth once more.

More Wind Power Transmission For The USA, Eventually

The Grain Belt Express is one in a group of ambitious wind power transmission projects under the umbrella of the company Clean Line Energy.

Clean Line’s business model looked simple enough. Harvest low cost renewable energy from prime wind-producing states in the Midwest “wind belt” and shuttle it over to high-population states to the east.

CleanTechnica took note of the project’s legal status back in 2016:

…The ambitious project is designed to link Kansas wind farms with Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and other points east, but it hit a brick wall last summer when property owners in Missouri objected. Ever since then, Clean Line has been prepping for Round 2, and it is bringing some heavy artillery with it for the next go-around.

The good news for fans of renewable energy is that last summer, the Missouri Supreme Court decided in favor of Clean Line.

Still, the project seemed stuck in the mud, and sometime last year Clean Line apparently dropped interest in the project.

A Wind Power Transmission Line Angel Swoops In

Our friends over at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have the scoop on the latest development, in which the leading renewable energy company Invenergy has expressed interest in picking up the pieces of the Grain Belt Express (please follow link to support local journalism). Reporter Bryce Gray reports:

“We do bring resources that Clean Line didn’t bring to the table,” said Beth Conley, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Clean Line “developed a good project and put a good case forward to the PSC.”

Conley stressed that the company sees potential in the project since it would help satisfy demand for cost-effective wind power.

There are still a couple of things to consider before you break out the bubbly. For one thing, the acquisition has pass muster with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Grain Belt opponents are already gearing up for another fight in that arena.

In addition, Invenergy is a major renewable energy company with a wide range of assets under its belt. That raises the possibility that Invenergy may acquire the Grain Belt project only to shelve it in favor of other projects.

Then there’s the immanent development of vast offshore renewable energy assets in the form of east coast offshore wind farms. That’s on track to unspool over the next 10 years, laying some heavy competition on Midwestern wind power.

On the other hand, the potential for complementarity with east coast offshore wind patterns could turn out to be a plus for Midwestern wind power developers, so there’s that (complementarity is fancyspeak for matching up different wind patterns in different regions, leading to improved grid reliability while reducing the need for new energy storage infrastructure).

Wind Power Trumps Oil & Gas Pipelines

So confusing! Anyways, CleanTechnica is reaching out to Invenergy for more details on its plans for Grain Belt, so stay tuned for more on that.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that local property owners who oppose the new wind power transmission lines have a mirror image in the fight against new oil and gas pipelines.

In one recent development on that score, the all-but-dead Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is hung up in court again.

Wind power transmission lines do have the advantage of support for clean energy by the general public. Adding fuel to the fire is the collective force of ratepayers in cities, who are eyeballing improved rate stability and potentially even a decrease in their bills. According to Gray’s reporting, 68 cities in Missouri are interested in buying electricity through Grain Belt, in anticipation of $10 million in total savings.

Commercial ratepayers are also pressing for more renewables. Major US corporations have been snapping up clean energy assets hand over fist, and that trend will accelerate as wind and solar costs continue to drop.

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Image: via Clean Line Energy.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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