News Flash: KCC grants siting permit for Grain Belt Express

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) on Nov. 7 unanimously approved Clean Line Energy Partners’ siting permit for the portion of the $2.2bn Grain Belt Express project that runs through Kansas.

The order granting the siting permit approved the company’s preferred route, with some modifications, and contained certain conditions (Docket No. 13-GBEE-803-MIS). It is the first siting permit Clean Line has received.  

“The commission finds the Grain Belt Express line will make possible the utilization of heretofore undeveloped wind energy potential in Kansas and will have significant short- and long-term economic development benefits for Kansas and the SPP region,” according to the order. “Therefore, based upon a review of the record as a whole, the commission concludes the proposed electric transmission line is necessary and the proposed route is reasonable.”

Grain Belt Express is a 750-mile, 600±kV HVDC line that would originate near the 345-kV Spearville substation in Ford County, Kan., and run to the 765-kV Sullivan substation in Sullivan County, Ind., carrying renewable energy to markets in the eastern United States. The Kansas portion of the project comprises 370 miles and $900m of the $2.2bn total. 

According to testimony cited in the order, the demand for renewable energy in the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) and PJM Interconnection would be 99.7 million MWh in 2015, 157.3 million MWh in 2020 and 194.8 million MWh in 2025.

“This demand greatly exceeds the renewable generation capacity of the MISO and PJM states, which testimony estimated to be 83.1 million MWh in 2010,” according to the order. “Thus, the evidence shows Grain Belt Express has a ready market for Kansas wind generated power carried east over its proposed transmission facilities.”

The conditions adopted in the order include that the cost of the project and any AC collector system owned by Grain Belt Express will not be recovered through the Southwest Power Pool cost allocation process or from Kansas ratepayers; that the company will provide quarterly updates on the project until its completion; that if construction does not begin within five years of the siting permit approval, the company will have to reapply for the permit; and that Clean Line must obtain the state or federal siting approvals required by law to begin construction on the entirety of the DC portion of the line outside of Kansas. 

Obtaining state regulatory approvals from Missouri, Illinois and Indiana will be sufficient to satisfy this last condition,  the commission said.

The approval of the siting permit is also “expressly” conditioned on continued flexibility in working with affected landowners. Clean Line exceeded the minimum requirements for public outreach, including landowners within 1,000 feet of the center of the proposed line’s easement, the KCC said in the order. 

In his concurring statement supporting the decision, Chairman Mark Sievers noted the benefits of the project to Kansas’ economy were substantial.

At the highest estimate, the project would create 2,340 jobs during the three-year construction period and 135 jobs during operation of the line in Kansas.

Construction of the project is estimated to add $131.5m to salaries and wages spent in Kansas, $371m to Kansas’ aggregate economic product, and $6.8m a year to state income and sales tax revenues.

The project would also enable between 15,000 and 19,000 jobs in the wind industry.

The construction of wind farms and manufacture of wind turbine components that the Grain Belt Express would enable are estimated to result in between $779m and $1bn of salaries and earnings for those employed in that industry in Kansas. The economic impact of those earnings in the Kansas economy is estimated to be between $2.3bn and $3.3bn. The operation of these wind farms is estimated to generate 528 jobs, $25m in earnings and add $73m to the aggregate economy in Kansas, as well as provide additional tax revenue for local and state government authorities.

In Kansas, the line would run through 14 counties: Ford, Hodgeman, Edwards, Pawnee, Barton, Russell, Osborne, Mitchell, Cloud, Washington, Marshall, Nemaha, Brown and Doniphan Counties.

The proposed and adopted route changes are:

  • Swenson/Johnson alternative route: This moves the line approximately ½ mile to the north and provides for a greater distance away from the Swenson’s home, saving their shelterbelt, routing through the Johnson’s pasture land and spanning the edge of the Johnson’s center pivot.
  • Steele alternative route: This moves the line ½ mile north instead of moving through the middle of the section and would begin in the northeast comer of the Blau property.
  • Schmitt/Huffman alternative route: This routes the line parallel to the existing electric line located around the Schmitt’s feedlot. Staff recommended the Commission approve an alternative wherein Grain Belt Express makes its line crossing as requested and then continues in a parallel manner, thus avoiding the Schmitt’s farm buildings.
  • Dockendorf alternative route: This moves the line approximately ¼ to ½ mile east in Sections 23 and 13 of Township 24 South, Range 20 West.

Consulting firm Louis Berger performed the routing study. 

Chairman Sievers and Commissioners Thomas Wright and Shari Feist Albrecht voted unanimously to approve the permit.

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.