Ameren Transmission wants to build $1 billion project from Palmyra, Quincy area to Indiana

Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois plans to build a 330-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line from Palmyra, Mo., across Illinois to Terre Haute, Ind.

Leigh Morris, spokesman for Ameren Transmission Co., said the transmission system will be part of a lattice work of electric systems upgrades that will connect generation sites to the west with customers to the east. The lines will provide a conduit for alternative energy sources such as wind and hydro projects. They also can become a big development tool.

“For economic development this opens up a whole new vista with companies that need greater capacity,” Morris said.

Economics are tied into the project in other ways, with the cost of construction estimated at between $890 million and $1.4 billion. Farmers who negotiate easements for the line also will receive one-time payments. And counties through which the transmission line passes will receive $20,000 per mile once the project is completed and in operation.

Costs assumed by Ameren Illinois customers are expected to be between 35 and 50 cents per month.

The first of three phases of public hearings on the transmission line was held at Emerson Community Center in Quincy. Later rounds of hearings will be held in July and starting in September. Those attending Wednesday’s open house got three yellow dots they could use to specify their greatest concerns about a transmission project. The top priority along the largely rural transmission corridor is how it will affect prime farm land. Other concerns were the impact on drainage features, woodlots, existing residences and historic sites.

Transmission lines will be mounted on metal poles that are between 80 and 140 feet tall. Poles will be placed between 700 and 1,000 feet apart, placed on concrete bases with a diameter of about eight feet. Farmers are able to plant right up to the bases and livestock can graze there as well.

“These do not rob the owner of the economic use of the land,” Morris said.

The time line for approval of the transmission line calls for completion of open houses in October and submission to the Illinois Commerce Commission in November. The ICC will decide between Ameren Transmission’s preferred route, alternate route, any ICC alternatives or a combination of routes by July 2013. Transmission lines could be operational in 2016.

Morris said the transmission project represents a big opportunity for the region and said the company wants to get feedback.

“Electricity is like anything else, it is available in finite quantities and if you want more, you have to expand the delivery system,” Morris said.

“If you want to move more cars, you’ve got to have more roads to do it. If you want to move more electrons you’ve got to have more electric roads.”

Also like cars, Morris said the high voltage transmission lines will increase efficiency of the electric system.