Clean Line Takes Illinois Wind Transmission Project Dismissal To Court

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The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), joined by Clean Line Energy Partners’ Rock Island Clean Line, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Wind on the Wires, recently asked the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the case on the Rock Island Clean Line, a $600 million infrastructure investment that would deliver wind energy to power approximately 1.4 million homes annually, says Clean Line.

The Rock Island Clean Line, first proposed in 2010, was unanimously approved in 2014 by the ICC, the state’s utility regulator. However, opposition from Commonwealth Edison and various landowners groups resulted in the Third District Appellate Court’s reversing the approval.

According to Clean Line, the 500-mile high-voltage direct-current transmission line would deliver 3.5 GW of wind from northwest Iowa and the surrounding region to communities in Illinois and other states to the east. The line would enable low-cost electricity from new wind farms in northwest Iowa, which would otherwise be unable to access the Illinois electricity markets, to compete to serve customer load in Illinois, the developer says.

Through its case with the ICC, Rock Island showed that the project would reduce electricity costs in Illinois by $320 million in the first year of operations, with additional reductions in future years. Rock Island also showed that the project would support 1,450 jobs in the state during the three-year construction phase.

“The appellate court ruling creates a dangerous precedent threatening the future of wind and solar development at the very moment when our state and our country are shifting to a cleaner energy future,” said John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the NRDC.

“The appeals court made basic errors in its decision that we hope the Illinois Supreme Court will identify,” added Hans Detweiler, vice president of Clean Line Energy. “The appeals court has created a Catch 22 barrier, with no basis in the statute, to prevent new companies from becoming public utilities and to prevent them from helping to lower energy prices in Illinois. The Rock Island project would deliver more than three times the annual energy of the Hoover Dam – from renewable resources – while saving Illinois consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said, “New transmission infrastructure is vital to the national need for more wind energy development, and Illinois is at the nation’s infrastructure crossroads. It is not good for Illinois or America for the state to close its borders to low-cost renewable energy. We encourage the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the appeal.”

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Janna Swanson
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Janna Swanson

Clean Line Energy Partners has been trying to push their line since 2012. During that time they have only signed 6% of the easements that they need for the project since their entire proposed route would be taken from private property, many times straight through the middle of farm fields. Iowa already leads the nation, per capita, in wind energy already and even the industry knows that all the low hanging fruit of landowners willing to sign their leases are gone. President Obama is pushing for the development of offshore wind because it cuts the “need” for these kinds of… Read more »