Iowa Wind Energy Converter Station Site Selected

Texas-based company plans to build converter station in northwest Iowa's O'Brien County to move electricity generated by wind energy.

Published on: Dec 10, 2011

After conducting multiple wind resource studies and technical analyses, Clean Line Energy, a Texas-based company, announced last week that it has selected O'Brien County in northwest Iowa as the site for a proposed wind resource converter station. The converter station will serve as a wind energy collection hub, changing incoming alternating current or AC power produced by wind farms into direct current or DC power.

The DC transmission lines offer a better way of transporting power over long distances compared to AC lines, say Clean Line company officials. The DC power is more efficient and there's less loss of voltage when running electrical energy over long distances when it is in the form of DC power. Independent studies show high voltage direct current overhead lines move significantly more power with greater efficiency than high voltage alternating current lines.

A second converter at the other end of the electricity transmission line in Illinois will change the direct current power back into alternating current power, which then will be transmitted into the electricity grid for consumers to use.

Big powerline project would move electricity from Iowa to states to the east

The $1.7 billion power line project will move electricity from Iowa eastward. Backers of the project say the huge new transmission line is needed to deliver electricity to the higher population centers in Illinois and states eastward where demand is greatest. The electricity would be produced by wind-generated electricity in northwest Iowa and in surrounding areas of neighboring states,

Environmental and engineering studies are ongoing for potential routes for this  major new electricity transmission line in Iowa. After those studies are completed and a primary route corridor has been selected, Clean Line will hold a series of public meetings in coordination with the Iowa Utilities Board. The utilities board has to approve the project before it can go forward.

This project to move wind-generated energy in Iowa eastward is advancing

Rock Island Clean Line LLC has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC seeking negotiated rate authority for the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project.

The Rock Island Clean Line is a proposed 500-mile overhead high voltage direct current or HVDC transmission line that will run from northwest Iowa to an area near Morris, Illinois. The project will deliver 3,500 megawatts of electrical energy from wind resources generated in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota to communities in Illinois and other states to the east, where higher population areas have a strong demand for clean, reliable electrical energy.

Receiving this rate negotiating authority will allow Clean Line to negotiate market-based rates with potential customers of the line, likely load-serving entities or wind developers. In this filing, Clean Line is seeking the authority to subscribe up to 75% of the line's capacity with anchor tenants, with unsubscribed capacity filled through an open season process. However, the same terms and pricing will be offered in the open season, say company sources. Clean Line is also seeking a preference for renewable energy generation, such that when evaluating potential customers, one criterion which will be considered is whether the energy the customer plans to ship on the line is derived from renewable energy sources.

Firm says it'll work with landowners in a responsible, transparent manner

"We have made significant progress on the development of the Rock Island Clean Line since its inception in 2010," says Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy. "After over 300 meetings with stakeholders, including a series of 26 open houses where we invited over 40,000 landowners to collect feedback on routing options, we've made substantial progress on engineering and design, the timing is now appropriate to submit an application with FERC seeing approval to begin negotiating rates with potential customers."

He adds, "We look forward to working with our stakeholders as we continue to develop the Rock Island Clean Line in a responsible and transparent manner."

In its application, Clean Line addresses the following standards: the justness and reasonableness of rates; the potential for undue discrimination; the potential for undue preference; including affiliate preference; and regional reliability and operational efficiency requirements. Clean Line also describes why granting this request, as detailed in the application, will be in the public interest.

Lines are needed to deliver clean, renewable wind power to customers

"Nearly 30 states have enacted policies to ramp up reliance on clean renewable power, but we need new transmission lines deliver the electricity to meet those goals cost-effectively," says Rebecca Schmidt, senior energy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest Program. "While we and many other organizations are still reviewing the route options for the transmission line under consideration by Clean Line, we strongly support the goal of creating a direct link between the abundant clean wind energy resources and customers in the major population centers."

Before the end of this year, Clean Line will host several open houses in Illinois to introduce local contractors to the Rock Island Clean Line project and to explore opportunities to use local businesses for construction of the project. Local contractor open houses in Iowa will be held in 2012. The approximately $1.7 billion project is expected to be in commercial operation in 2016 or 2017.