Indiana electric utilities choking on federal environmental rules that threaten their coal and oil-powered generating stations might be able to tap wind power generated in the plains states starting in 2017.
Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners plans to build a $2 billion, 700-mile transmission line from Kansas to an existing transmission line in Sullivan County in southwest Indiana that connects to eastern states.
The precise path of the “Grain Belt Express” transmission line hasn’t been set, but it would likely pass into southwestern Indiana from Ilinois. Property negotiations and/or regulatory approvals are being sought in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Clean Line Energy plans by year end to file with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to become recognized as a regulated public utility, said Diana Coggin, project development manager.
Kansas regulators already have granted the company public utility status.
Later this month, the company plans a public meeting in Sullivan County and will make a presentation to the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce’s energy management conference in downtown Indianapolis.
Clean Line said the transmission-line project has the potential to enable $7 billion in new wind-farm investment in the plains states. Wind generated there is effectively stranded because transmission-line connections to the east are lacking, Coggin said.
The privately funded project would not allocate construction costs to Indiana ratepayers. Clean Line would sell electricity to utilities.
Utilities may be receptive to buying plains states wind power as they struggle with how to comply with federal regulations ranging from air pollution to cooling-water-intake restrictions at coal-fired power plants.
Indianapolis Power & Light, for example, is looking at retiring some of its older units that are not cost-effective to retrofit with pollution-control technology.
Clean Line is touting the economic development potential of the project. It says more than 200 companies in Indiana are involved in wind energy and transmission-component manufacturing and services that could benefit as more wind-turbine units enabled by the project are built in states such as Kansas.
Improving economics in wind-generation technology have reduced the cost per unit of wind power, though it’s unclear to what degree that could benefit ratepayers of Indiana utilities that buy the power.
Clean Line was founded in 2009 and includes former executives involved in the Meadow Lake wind-turbine farm in northern Indiana. It has three other transmission projects underway in the upper Midwest, Southwest and southern United States.