Columbia Water and Light Board hears from Grain Belt rep

The line could fulfill part of Columbia’s energy requirements.

Columbia’s Water and Light Board is reviewing a proposal to create and maintain renewable wind energy in Missouri.

Mark Lawlor, a representative for Clean Line Energy Partners, spoke with Columbia’s Water and Light Board on Sept. 2. The proposal is part of the “Grain Belt Express Project,” which includes states located within the “Wind Belt.” The Wind Belt, including Missouri, is a handful of states that have the highest wind speed levels in the country.

According to www.grainbeltexpresscleanline.com, this project will be a 750-mile, high-voltage direct-current transmission line delivering about 500 megawatts of low-cost wind energy from western Kansas into Missouri.

“The purpose of the meeting was purely informative,” Water and Light spokesperson Connie Kacprowicz said. “It is up to the city manager and council to see if this idea gets implemented. The board voted on whether they favored the proposal, and the majority did say that they recommend the council endorse the project. Only one person was opposed to the idea.”

Columbia’s Water and Light Board members responded positively to Clean Line Energy’s idea.

“They were actually quite excited to go forward with the plan,” Lawlor said. “They’re tasked with the city of Columbia’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal, and they need more renewable energy on their system.

“The reason we’re doing it is because Missouri has a RPS that requires 15 percent of energy be renewable. They need it cost effectively, and we have the lowest cost renewable energy out there. The need is apparent, real and immediate.”

Columbia needs to receive a certain amount of renewable energy by 2017.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mayor Bob McDavid said. “It is about getting access to energy as cleanly and inexpensively as you can get it. We are under a mandate to get 15 percent of energy from renewable sources by the year 2017. If they’re successful, they’ll deliver us to a substantially lower cost than what we are now paying for.”

Lawlor said the energy would not cost Missouri taxpayers.

“People want cost-effective energy, and we’re not asking any rate payers to fund the development of this,” he said. “We’ve arranged it with Missouri companies, like General Cable, to assemble and build the line.”

If such a proposal came true, the economic, social and environmental advantages would be numerous, Lawlor said.

“The property tax revenue will increase for rural counties with a shrinking tax base,” he said. “An estimated 1,000 jobs will be created, and 70 permanent jobs will exist after the construction. It will provide clean energy to the environment. Currently, 30 percent of Missouri’s energy comes from coal. This will be challenging in the future.”

No official course of action has been issued. A final decision is to be made in the future.

“The meeting just showed an expression of interest, but the next step is going to the city council members to plead the case,” Lawlor said.

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