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Grain Belt Express Moving Forward With Land Purchases

The route of the Grain Belt Express that will take power generated from wind turbines in Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to connect with other transmission lines.
The route of the Grain Belt Express that will take power generated by wind turbines in Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to connect with other transmission lines.

A project to generate electricity using wind turbines in Kansas and distribute the power in the Midwest and east coast is moving forward.

Invenergy has purchased nearly half of the land it needs in northern Missouri for the construction project that will begin in earnest in 2023. All of those deals have been the product of voluntary negotiations with landowners willing to sell, according to the company, although Invenergy could have used eminent domain to acquire the land.

Some members of the Missouri legislature wanted to revoke the eminent domain power during its regular session that ended in May. But the effort fell short, largely because opponents pointed to the company’s approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission and the likelihood that Invenergy would bring a court challenge if it was prohibited from using eminent domain.

“Eminent domain would only be a last resort. We are continuing to pursue voluntary negotiations with landowners,” said Nicole Luckey, vice president of regulatory affairs for Invenergy.

The issue could come up again next year, but Luckey said the company isn’t concerned with that, as Invenergy is open to talking with lawmakers.

“It’s about coming to the table and letting them know we respect their point of view and the constituents they represent,” Luckey said. “We want to be a partner with them, and we are going to continue education and outreach with citizens and lawmakers.”

The Grain Belt Express will run power from wind turbines in Kansas, through Missouri and Illinois and into Indiana, where it will connect with other distribution lines. That means while most of the power will be sold to customers in the Midwest and east coast, it will also be part of the larger power grid nationwide.

Luckey said linking the Grain Belt Express to the power grid could have helped avoid the massive power outage Texas experienced in February.

“The line would have made it possible to import substantial amounts of excess electricity to supply from other regions to address those outages,” Luckey said.

Even with the land acquisition progress and preliminary ground preparation work underway, construction of the line won’t begin until 2023. Luckey said the project will create 1,500 jobs that will last the duration of the multiyear construction.

Invenergy also lists benefits to Missouri including $7 million in annual property tax revenue for local units of government starting in the first year of operation and the possibility of using the infrastructure to improve broadband internet connectivity to underserved areas.

Thirty-nine municipal utility companies in Missouri have an agreement to buy power through the Grain Belt Express, and Invenergy estimates that will save customers a total of $13 million a year on utility costs.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.