Iowa’s wind can help power East Coast cities

Photo: Stephen Mally/The Gazette

While a transition to renewable energy is one of our best bets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change the lack of energy transmission lines from where renewable energy is produced to where it’s needed is a big impediment to its growth. As Greentech Media explained, our current century-old grid system presents challenges to attaining more renewable energy usage, with inefficient infrastructure and independent grid systems. New transmission and distribution projects potentially face significant delays related to right-of-way issues, such as permits for crossing waterways or resistance from residential neighborhoods, as well as limited financing options related to high upfront investments and these issues are slowing down the rollout of renewables projects. That’s why it’s encouraging news that a Minneapolis-based transmission developer hopes to build a 349-mile underground transmission line to deliver energy from wind-rich rural Iowa to high-demand eastern U.S. cities.

As the Des Moines Register reported:

  • Direct Connect Development Co. said last Monday it wants to build a 2,100-megawatt high-voltage transmission line that would run underground from Mason City to the Chicago area along existing railroad lines, primarily the Canadian Pacific.
  • The project, called SOO Green, is expected to cost about $2.5 billion and could be operational by 2024, the company said. It would need permits from several local, state and federal agencies, including the Iowa Utilities Board and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to go ahead with the project.
  • Direct Connect said it can limit the project’s environmental impact “by boring under sensitive habitat, limiting the impact on birds and other endangered species.”

Take a look at a map of the proposed project to deliver Iowa’ abundance of wind to Chicago:

Why This Matters: When the Green New Deal was unveiled it specifically mentioned the creation of infrastructure to help strengthen our nation and create jobs. Renewable energy transmission projects like this are a prime example of sorts of infrastructure we will need in the future but we have to start thinking about these projects now as they take several years to plan and implement–especially if we have just about a decade to make big strides to reduce emissions. Additionally, Direct Connect Development Co.’s involvement shows that the private sector can be an important partner in developing a clean energy future and that the federal government doesn’t have to foot the entire bill as GOP groups have stated.

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