To the Editor:
Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure of introducing the Rock Island Clean Line to people across Illinois.
Rock Island is a project that will create wind manufacturing and transmission construction jobs in our state, enable enough new wind power to serve 1.4 million Illinois homes, and will lower power prices in Illinois.
As currently planned, the Rock Island Clean Line will also include a $300 million high-voltage direct-current converter station in Grundy County, the first of its kind in Illinois and a true upgrade to the existing transmission grid, as well as a valuable long-term addition to the property tax rolls in Grundy County.
Rock Island will bring clear benefits to Illinois’ electricity markets, delivering about three times the amount of the annual energy supply of the Hoover Dam to Illinois consumers. Once delivered into Illinois, the power may be consumed here, or it may travel outside the state to other customers. But Illinois customers would benefit in either case.
One way to understand why this is true is to think about corn markets, with which Grundy County farmers are very familiar. Farmers understand that several bumper crops of corn in a row, all other things being equal, will lower corn prices as supply grows relative to demand. If Rock Island delivers a bumper crop of wind energy into Illinois markets, Illinois consumers benefit.
Whether that power, after delivery into Illinois, is consumed in Illinois or goes outside the state for consumption, Illinois consumers still capture the benefit of that supply.
Rock Island also provides strong support to Illinois’ wind and electric manufacturing sector. We have signed an agreement with Southwire Company to procure the transmission conductor (or wire) for the project from its production factory in Flora, Ill. — a roughly $70 million order that would keep the plant’s 100 employees occupied for more than a year.
Illinois also has many wind energy supply chain companies that can benefit from all the new wind farms in the region, for instance, Brad Foote Gear Works in Cicero, Winergy Drive Systems in Elgin, and Trinity Structural Towers in Clinton.
Finally, some farmers have expressed very reasonable concerns about the project’s potential use of eminent domain. Our company is preparing to file our application with the Illinois Commerce Commission, seeking public utility status and approval of the route, but we will explicitly not seek eminent domain authorization at this time. We are committed to voluntary easement acquisition efforts, and have put forward a strong compensation package.
Only if we exhaust all reasonable measures to acquire a parcel by voluntary means would our company apply, on a parcel-by-parcel basis, to the Illinois Commerce Commission for authorization to condemn.
Just as the Rock Island Railroad allowed farmers to move their goods to market, the Rock Island Clean Line will deliver clean, cost-effective wind energy for Illinois and America.
For more information on the Rock Island Clean Line, please visit www.rockislandcleanline.com.