The Missouri Public Service Commission has unanimously approved the sale of the Grain Belt Express wind transmission line to Chicago-based Invenergy. Wednesday’s 5-0 decision was required for Invenergy to buy the rights to build the proposed high-voltage power line across eight northern Missouri counties. The counties are Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.

Controversial energy line project clears major Missouri hurdle

The project aims to transfer Kansas wind energy through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and to eastern states.

According to the commission’s press release, the panel determined that allowing Invenergy to buy Grain Belt is “not detrimental to the public interest.”

“Invenergy acquiring Grain Belt benefits the Grain Belt Express Project, which benefits the State of Missouri and the public interest,” said the Commission.

Many Missouri landowners oppose the project because the company could try to use eminent domain to take land away from owners standing in the way of the line. State Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, filed a bill during this year’s legislative session that would have blocked the company from taking private land away from property owners for the project. The measure died in the state Senate.

The release says the project’s benefits to the state would include:

• An estimated 1,500 jobs during the three to four years of construction;
• A continuing source of property tax revenues to the political subdivisions where the facilities are located;
• A participant-funded model, such that Grain Belt Express assumes all financial risk of building and operating the transmission line, with no costs anticipated to be recovered through the rates of regional transmission organizations;
• An estimated $9.5-$11 million in annual savings for customers of the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission, which will receive up to 250 MW of capacity from the Project through an existing Transmission Services Agreement;
• Additional access to high-capacity-factor Kansas wind resources to fulfill the growing demand for renewable energy in Missouri.

Thirty-nine Missouri cities have already signed up for the power through the project, including Chillicothe, Columbia, Farmington, Hannibal and Marshall. During House floor debate on Hansen’s bill, he said less than 12% of the Grain Belt’s electricity would be sold to Missouri consumers. State Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, said the project would create $7 million annually in property tax revenues to Missouri political subdivisions.

The plan faces regulatory approval in Illinois, where an appeals court last year reversed the state’s earlier approval.

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