United States

United States

Invenergy's 5GW Grain Belt power line wins key approval amid legal challenge

State authorities in Illinois have approved plans for a $7bn transmission project which could bring 5GW of wind energy from the Great Plains to consumers across the Midwest, but legal hurdles remain.

A wind farm in Illinois (pic credit: Holly Hildreth/Getty Images)
A wind farm in Illinois (pic credit: Holly Hildreth/Getty Images)

Following a year-long public consultation and review, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Invenergy’s Grain Belt Express transmission line.

However, it could take several more months of legal wrangling before construction can begin.

The approval means that the company has now secured siting approvals for the high-voltage direct-current portion of the line by state regulators in all four states along its 1,255km route: Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

However, the Chicago-based developer still needs approval in Kansas to build the project in two phases, as well as from Missouri to deliver 2.5GW of electicity rather than the originally stated 500MW.

“Invenergy Transmission and Grain Belt Express are proud of this important milestone toward our goal of delivering more affordable and reliable power here in Invenergy’s home state of Illinois and across the Midwest,” said Shashank Sane, executive vice president and head of transmission at Invenergy.

The 5GW line will run from western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, linking areas with significant wind resources to more heavily populated regions east of the Mississippi River.

Legal challenge

This is not the first attempt at linking the two areas. The ICC first approved the project in 2015 – when it was owned by Clean Line Energy – but that ruling was successfully challenged by the Illinois Farm Board in 2018, which argued that the ICC lacked authority to grant such a certificate to a non-public utility.

Invenergy bought the project from Clean Line Energy in 2020 and presented it again after the Illinois legislature made the necessary legal changes.

However, the company will have to await the results of further legal proceedings after the agricultural body and landowner groups challenged this legislation in a local court as unconstitutional.

If overturned, the ICC’s approval would be nullified.

“The courts will have the final say on whether the project should be approved in Illinois,” said Richard Guebert Jr, president of the Illinois Farm Board.

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