Transmission line could help export Kansas wind energy out of state
By Kylene Scott
Where there are wind turbines producing energy, there has to be a way to get the energy to consumers. A Texas-based company, Clean Line Energy Partners, recently invited local businesses to attend a series of open house meetings held in Kansas to learn about the Grain Belt Express Clean Line.
"We are here primarily today to introduce you to the Grain Belt Express project and talk about Clean Line's desire to work with the local communities, local suppliers, local contractors in building our project and moving in the process," Wayne Galli, executive vice president transmission and technical services, Clean Line Energy, said.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a 700-mile overhead, high voltage direct current transmission line that will deliver 3,500 megawatts of low-cost wind power from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and states farther east. The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will give Kansas the ability to move a domestic energy source to market and enable $7 billion of new, renewable energy projects to be built in Kansas. In addition to the new wind farm investments, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project will cost approximately $2 billion with around $1 billion of investment in Kansas. In December 2011, the Kansas Corporation Commission unanimously approved Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC as a public utility in Kansas.
"We have a common thesis for all our projects and that's moving, delivering 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from the best, lowest cost wind resource in the country to the load centers," Galli said. "Were doing that utilizing high voltage direct current, and we're supported right now by private investors that bring a very long-term perspective."
Investors realize the transmission development timeline, and as Galli said, it will be three to six years during the development timeframe before "you even think about turning dirt on these things, and we've been at it for a solid three years."
Having this project in Kansas makes sense to developers because of the wind potential.
"Of course in the middle of the country where the best wind is there's little to no transmission infrastructure to move it," Galli said. "So, transmission is being built and our projects are specifically to incent more wind and develop further transmission to provide for export opportunity."
Joe Rossignoli, director of U.S. business development at National Grid, described his company's commitment to the project and thinks it is important for the industry. National Grid recently invested $40 million in the project.
"We're excited about the project because it's a win for, we feel, for all the communities along the project's route and up to and including the folks that are going to buy the power," Rossignoli said. "I know enough about these kind of projects, having worked on them many times, and my colleagues at grid know enough about these projects know enough to understand that if it's not a win-win that it's not going to go."
He said that transmission energy infrastructure projects simply will not advance without being win-win for both companies involved and the communities that they are serving.
"We feel strongly that this project has very high prospects for success and glad you're here to express your interest in potentially being a part of it," Rossignoli said.
Project Development Director, Clean Line Energy Partners, Mark Lawlor praised the potential for wind in Kansas, and exporting wind energy is only limited by the transmission capabilities. The obvious next step was the transmission side.
"We sit here in the middle of a vast resource to the north, south, east and west and so it's a good starting point for our converter station which will probably be somewhere in the Ford County area that will collect the wind convert it to DC and move it on," Lawlor said. "But the high-level components of the project are that it will pull wind from this part of the state and deliver it to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east."
The project is large, with 3,500 megawatts of energy on the Grain Belt line, and currently Kansas--across the whole state has 2,400 megawatts of wind installed.
"We can do more than what is in the ground today on this single transmission line," Lawlor said. "The market is pretty large and you can hit a significant number of states farther east once you connect this remote part of the grid with a distant part of the grid."
The project is expected to cost $2 billion, but also translate into $7 billion in more wind farm development in southwest Kansas, Ford County in particular. At the end of January Clean Line is going to make a significant step in the routing.
"We're going to take those to the public for feedback. We invited the landowners in the vicinity as well as the public at large to come to these," Lawlor said.
The public open houses are set for the following locations:
--Jan. 28, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Magouirk Conference Center, 4100 W. Comanche, Dodge City.
--Jan. 29, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Elks Lodge, 1120 Kansas Ave., Great Bend; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Haas Building, 400 E. 18th St., Larned.
--Jan. 30, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Elks Lodge, 510 S. Front St., Russell,; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., American Legion Post 49, 123 W. Main St., Osborne.
--Jan. 31, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Beloit Municipal Building, 119 N. Hersey Ave., Beloit; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Lincoln Park Manor, 922 N. 5th St., Lincoln.
--Feb. 1, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Christian Church (Fellowship Hall), 402 W. 6th St., Concordia.
--Feb. 11, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Mayberry's Restaurant, 307 C St., Washington.
--Feb. 12, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Seneca Community Building, 1500 Community Dr., Seneca; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., American Legion, 310 N. 19th St., Marysville.
--Feb. 13, 7 a.m. to 9 am, Leonard L. Clary Community Center, 1225 Last Chance Rd., Troy; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Fisher Center, 201 E. Iowa St., Hiawatha.
Detailed maps and informational materials will be provided at each open house. All open houses will provide the same information; no formal presentation will be made. Food and drinks will be provided. More information can be found at www.grainbeltexpresscleanline.com.
"As Wayne mentioned, these projects take a few years to develop, but we want to establish the relationships with people in the community, because in the end something this big just doesn't happen by itself. Doesn't just happen itself with a few of us at Clean Line," Lawlor said. "We need support to help keep the momentum and well, the momentum going on the project."
A big part of the project, Lawlor said, is outreach and building support from communities.
"We take a very proactive and transparent approach. We want there to be support for this and we ultimately want to site the line in a way that minimizes its impact on folks that will be involved in the project," Lawlor said. "You will learn a lot more about that if you come to our public open house meetings that we'll have at the end of the month and see how much detail goes into routing one of these transmission lines and how much information and input we gather from the public to make for the best location for this line as possible."
Galli explained why DC technology will be used on the transmission line as opposed AC. Primarily, DC stays more efficient due to voltage and reactive power issues.
"With the long AC line, once you get beyond 200 miles, you have to start adding equipment to the line to support the voltage and support the power transfer across it--so about 200 to 250 miles you have to start adding equipment to that line," Galli said. "At about 350 miles, the terminal equipment you need on a DC line versus the extra cost you have to put on an AC line, the power transfer out of it starts to break even."
Anywhere beyond the 350-mile point it starts to make sense to consider a DC line, Galli said. With traditional AC lines, there is more space taken up, with lines needing 600 feet of right of way. The DC lines only take 200 to 250 feet.
"So the nice thing about DC is it's completely controllable from a system operator's perspective," Galli said. "If they dial in and say they want to ship 1,000 megawatts, dial in 1,000 megawatts and 1,000 megawatts goes. If they need to back it off or increase it, essentially--figuratively speaking, the turn the dial and it flows."
That system allows Clean Line to pursue more of a merchant mile.
"The way we get this paid for is by users of the energy on the line. So it looks a lot more like an interstate gas pipeline where users of the line would actually pay for capacity on it," Galli said. "Whereas traditional transmission is cost allocated to ratepayers within the state. The costs are covered on this transmission line are covered on through transmission line on merchant model were only those that were actually utilizing the capacity on the line are paying for it."
Initially the project will create 5,000 jobs; with 500 permanent/operational type jobs remaining after the construction of the line and additional wind turbines. Materials needed for the project are staggering alone, and Galli hopes Kansas can provide.
"We think that there are plenty of companies in Kansas and along the footprint that can benefit from these and the activities associated with this," Galli said. "And that's kind of why we're here, to start building relationships early in the process. Find out who's out there, what's available and how we can start working together."
One audience member questioned the governmental tax credits and their stability in the wind industry. Galli was not concerned simply because of the technology involved in wind-generated energy.
"When you look at wind turbine technology and how it's progressed over the last say five years, the efficiency of turbines has increased by about 30 percent," Galli said. "So, if the PTC disappears, in the next couple of years, we think the wind turbine technology is getting good enough that you won't need it."
Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at email@example.com.