Click here to print (PDF)

What is the Rock Island Clean Line?

The Rock Island Clean Line will be part of the nation's critical infrastructure that will help power our homes, communities, and the clean energy economy. The project will consist of an approximately 500-mile, overhead, high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line. The line will be capable of transmitting up to 3,500 megawatts of new renewable energy from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, to communities in Illinios and states farther east.

Who is Clean Line Energy?

Clean Line Energy develops high voltage, long-haul transmission lines connecting the best renewable resources in North America to communities that need the power. Clean Line Energy provides transmission solutions to generators and load-serving utilities in order to efficiently interconnect clean energy with consumers. Clean Line Energy was founded by Michael Skelly, who led the development efforts at Horizon Wind Energy. The management team includes executives who have managed, built and financed ambitious projects in the renewable and traditional energy sectors around the world, as well as senior policy professionals who have shaped energy policy and advanced the renewable energy agenda at local, state and national levels. In aggregate, the Clean Line Energy team has financed billions of dollars of projects and managed the development and construction of thousands of megawatts of power plants and transmission lines.

What will the project cost and how will the Rock Island Clean Line be funded?

The Rock Island Clean Line is estimated to cost approximately $2 billion. Clean Line Energy intends to fund the development costs of the project and will sell transmission capacity to renewable energy generators or to the buyers of the clean energy being delivered on the line.

What is Rock Island Clean Line LLC?

Clean Line Energy is developing several projects across the United States – each dedicated to connecting the country's best renewable energy resources to communities and cities with a demand for renewable power. Solely devoted to developing and constructing the Rock Island Clean Line Transmission project, the Rock Island Clean Line LLC is a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC.

What is the transmission capacity of the line?

The Rock Island Clean Line will consist of an overhead, high voltage direct current transmission line that will be capable of transmitting up to 3,500 megawatts of energy. The project will deliver enough clean, renewable energy to meet the needs of over 1.4 million American homes.

What is the timeline of the project?

The Rock Island Clean Line is expected to take between five and seven years to complete. Outreach, permitting, regulatory work and right-of-way work will take three to five years and construction will require approximately two years. For more detailed information about our project timeline, please click here.

When is construction scheduled to begin?

The development of Rock Island Clean Line is expected to take between five and seven years to complete. Construction is slated to begin in 2015.

What is the route of the Transmission Line?

Clean Line Energy is developing the Rock Island Clean Line in a methodical, transparent and collaborative manner and will work with landowners, environmental agencies and community officials in order to come up with the best project possible. Siting a new transmission line is a lengthy and complex process that requires the evaluation of many factors and interests. Clean Line Energy has already met with many federal, states and local government-elected officials, community leaders and environmental advocates, as well as the officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and numerous state agencies to obtain their input on the best route from an environmental and land use perspective. Clean Line Energy has conducted an extensive public outreach process that included working with communities, landowners and other stakeholders to determine the best route for the transmission line. Clean Line Energy believes that such a process, where input is sought from those affected by the project is critical to the ultimate success of the Rock Island Clean Line.

Maps of the Illinois routes can be found here.
A map of the Iowa study corridors can found here.

Who will manage the development of the Rock Island Clean Line?

The project will be managed by a team of Clean Line Energy's employees who have developed, built and financed ambitious projects in the renewable and traditional energy sectors, as well as senior policy professionals who shaped energy policy and advanced the renewable energy agenda at the state and national levels.

Who will build the Rock Island Clean Line?

Clean Line has selected Kiewit to provide construction management services for the project. Kiewit has extensive experience using local content and local labor for construction projects, which was a key criterion in Clean Line’s selection process.

A list of potential components and services needed during construction can be found here.

If you are interested participating in the development, construction, and/or operation of the line, help us to understand your business capabilities by providing your information here.

Who will operate the Rock Island Clean Line?

Rock Island Clean Line LLC will be responsible for maintenance of the line.  Like all other transmission lines, the Rock Island Clean Line will likely be controlled by one of the regional transmission organizations (RTO).  RTOs are responsible for planning and coordinating the transfer of energy over large interstate areas.  An RTO controls and monitors an electricity transmission grid that is larger and uses much higher voltages than the typical power company’s distribution grid.  

Who will benefit from the Rock Island Clean Line?

People and communities across the project area will benefit from the Rock Island Clean Line. Consumers in Illinois—both residential customers and businesses—will benefit from the lower prices resulting from the increased competition that the project will bring. Additionally, the project will create jobs through the actual construction of the transmission line, through the manufacturing of the components for the transmission line, and through the construction and manufacturing of the wind turbines needed to supply the line. Furthermore, local governments across the project area will typically benefit from increased tax revenues from both the transmission line infrastructure and the supporting wind farms, and landowners at the western end of the project area will benefit from royalty payments associated with wind farms.

For more detailed information about the benefits of the Rock Island Clean Line, please click here.

How many jobs will the Rock Island Clean Line create?

The Rock Island Clean Line will bring substantial economic benefits throughout the project region. It is estimated that the Rock Island Clean Line will result in more than 5,000 construction jobs and more than 500 permanent jobs maintaining and operating the transmission line and the associated wind farms.  Additionally, businesses will see increased demand for their products and services, particularly those involved with services, materials and equipment to be used in construction of the project and the associated wind farms, as well as retail and hospitality industries. 

Is Clean Line Energy a regulated or unregulated entity?

Rock Island Clean Line LLC is subject to the regulation of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) with respect to franchising of the line, to the line’s construction, and to engineering and safety standards during and after the construction of the line. In Illinois, Rock Island Clean Line LLC will be subject to the regulation of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) with respect to certification as a public utility and to construct the transmission line, contacts and negotiations with landowners to acquire easements for the line, construction of the line in Illinois, and various accounting, financial and reporting matters.

As a transmission owner and operator, Rock Island Clean Line LLC will also be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In addition, Rock Island Clean Line LLC will be required to obtain permits from a variety of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Will the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) be involved in the approval of this project?

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will have oversight of the terms and conditions of service and the rates charged and will have a role in ensuring that the project's transmission lines are operated on a non-discriminatory basis.

Who is considered to be a stakeholder of the Rock Island Clean Line?

A stakeholder is defined as any person interested in the Rock Island Clean Line, including, but not limited to: individual landowners; federal, state and local government entities and agencies; tribal organizations; elected officials; local businesses and business organizations; non-governmental organizations; and civic and community organizations.

How will Rock Island Clean Line acquire right-of-way for this project?

The project will use a stake holder outreach process that is methodical, responsible, transparent, and compliant with state laws and regulations. Right-of-way agreements will be negotiated individually with each landowner and will depend on many factors including, but not limited to:

  • Existing uses of the land (e.g. crops vs. grazing vs. residential)
  • Type and number of structures that will be placed on the land
  • The requirement for future access rights to the land

Our team of professionals and consultants are experienced in the industry, particularly in building relationships with landowners. It is our goal to work proactively with the communities and landowners that will be affected. We will be available to address stakeholders' concerns at every point throughout this process.

Clean Line Energy requires that all of its representatives follow a Code of Conduct, which provides that each representative treat every landowner with consideration and respect. The Code of Conduct can be found here. In addition, Clean Line Energy strives to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with all landowners and stakeholders by working in a respectful and collaborative manner for the life of the project. 

Can I grow crops or build anything under the transmission line?

The land under the transmission line can typically be used for crop production and pasture/grazing lands. Clean Line Energy must comply with the National Electric Reliability Corporation Standards to ensure the reliable operation of the transmission line. As a result, there are restrictions on the placement of structures and planting all growing trees underneath the transmission line.

For a simulation of what the transmission line might look like passing through agricultural fields, please click here.

Can I hook a wind turbine up to the line?

It is not feasible to tie in wind farms along the route of the HVDC line because the intermediate collection points are very difficult to justify economically. The HVDC converter stations that connect the AC grid to the HVDC line cost more than $200 million each. Think of HVDC lines as "express" lines suitable for long-haul transmission of electricity but not for short distances. HVDC lines are typically the best choice for distances over several hundred miles.

In the case of the Rock Island Clean Line, the wind energy facilities will connect at the western end of the line and the energy will be delivered directly to Illinois at the other end of the HVDC line.

Can I get my electricity from the line?

The electricity transmitted by the Rock Island Clean Line is a much higher voltage than the local transmission and distribution grid that provides electricity to homes and businesses.  Therefore, end users cannot get their electricity directly from the project, but rather must rely on their utilities to supply power at appropriate voltage levels.  The renewable power delivered by the Rock Island Clean Line will be delivered to consumers through the existing transmission and distribution grid.

What is HVDC?

HVDC stands for high voltage direct current. The electric grid is made up almost exclusively of alternating current (AC) transmission and distribution lines. HVDC is widely considered the most efficient method to connect large amounts of energy to distant electricity areas that have a strong demand for the power. HVDC lines can transfer significantly more power with greater efficiency than comparable AC lines. For more detailed information about HVDC, please click here

Is HVDC a new technology?

High voltage direct current transmission (HVDC) is a proven technology that has been around since the 1930s and the birth of the modern electric industry. HVDC is already in use in the United States and throughout the world. Currently, there are more than 20 HVDC transmission facilities in the United States and more than 35 across the North American grid. For more detailed information about the history of HVDC technology, please click here

What are the advantages of HVDC technology?

High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines have smaller structures and require less land than AC lines to deliver an equivalent amount of energy. From a power grid operator perspective, HVDC gives grid operators complete control of energy flow. HVDC lines are not a replacement for the AC grid or the additional AC transmission that is required. HVDC complements the existing AC transmission network and can be an additional source for system stability and reliability. 

Why is Clean Line using HVDC technology for its projects?

High voltage direct current (HVDC) is the preferred technology for moving large amounts of power over long distances. The use of HVDC transmission line results in overall higher efficiency and reliability than an equivalently sized alternating current line to move the same amount of power, therefore offering significant electrical, economic and environmental advantages. These advantages include lower power losses on the line, better land use due to smaller tower structures, and the ability to control the power flow.

What will the structure of the transmission line be?

There are many factors that must be considered when determining the structures including terrain requirements and land-use constraints (for instance center pivot irrigation systems). Clean Line Energy is currently analyzing a variety of structures ranging from steel monopole structures, steel lattice designs, guyed structures and hybrid steel-concrete structures. Ultimately, we value landowner input and will take the landowner feedback and preference into consideration to select the structures. Preferred structures may not be known until final route determination.

How wide is our right-of-way (ROW)?

Right-of-way refers to the actual land area acquired for a specific purpose, such as the location of a transmission line.  Clean Line Energy will be acquiring easements; the land underneath the wires will be able to be utilized by the landowner for certain activities such as farming, grazing cattle, and other activities that do not interfere with the operation of the line.  When determining the width of the right-of-way, it is necessary to understand the amount of space needed for appropriate safety clearances to the ground and for the side-to-side movement of conductors due to wind.

Clean Line Energy estimates the right-of-way for its projects will generally be between 145 and 200 feet; this is largely determined by terrain, clearance issues, and how closely structures are placed to each other.

How big is a converter station?

The converter station for an HVDC transmission line looks similar to a typical electric substation; however there is also a building that hosts the converter valves in an enclosed environment. The converter station will take up between 40 and 60 fenced-in acres and is typically located near its point of interconnection to the AC grid.

Will you put the lines underground? If not, why?

The cost and complexity of underground transmission systems are justified primarily at short distances in heavily populated downtown urban centers where right-of-way and space is severely limited for overhead lines. The underground application is untested for the power and voltage levels that Clean Line Energy is proposing for its long haul HVDC lines. Clean Line Energy is proposing overhead lines because of efficiency, reliability and cost. Underground transmission lines generally cost 10-15 times as much as overhead lines.

What is EMF?

EMF stands for electromagnetic field. Electric fields are produced by voltage, which is the electrical pressure that drives an electric current through a circuit. Magnetic fields are produced by current, which is the movement or flow of electricity.  EMFs are naturally present in the environment and are present wherever electricity is used (e.g., a toaster, cell phone, wristwatch, a lamp, a computer, etc.).  The earth has both magnetic fields produced by currents in the molten core of the planet and an electric field produced by electrical activity in the atmosphere, such as thunderstorms. 

To learn more about EMF and HVDC transmission, please click here.

What efforts is Clean Line Energy initiating to minimize environmental impact?

Clean Line Energy is working extremely hard to be a good environmental steward. We are accountable to state and federal agencies regarding our environmental impacts. We are conducting extensive outreach to environmental advocate organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Audobon Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other similar organizations to get input as to areas of concern.

Will the line interfere with GPS signals?

Global positioning system (GPS) satellite receivers associated with farm equipment will operate with their traditional degree of accuracy near and under high voltage transmission lines. In order to summarize research conducted on this topic, among others, Clean Line commissioned a whitepaper examining the accumulated research on the effects of HVDC lines on electronic devices. Information about television and radio reception, cell phones, wireless internet, and global positioning system satellite receivers is discussed in the section on electric fields. The section on magnetic fields discusses standards throughout the world and research regarding potential effects on implanted medical devices. At the end of the whitepaper is bibliographical information for all the studies referenced or summarized. To view that study, please click here.

Is there a letter from ten Eastern Governors regarding Rock Island Clean Line?

No. In 2009, ten East Coast Governors did write a letter to leaders in Congress regarding renewable energy development.  This letter was sent to express the Governors’ support for renewable energy in general, and their opposition to certain federal policies which might have favored Midwestern wind energy and transmission lines over their local resources. The policies referenced in their letter were not passed into law.

This letter was sent prior to the start of development of the Rock Island Clean Line and does not mention Rock Island Clean Line. The Rock Island Clean Line is not receiving any federal subsidies for the development of the proposed transmission line. In the letter, the Governors “support the development of wind resources for the United States wherever they exist” and seek a level playing field for renewable energy development.  Rock Island Clean Line’s merchant business model is entirely consistent with such a level playing field approach.

Click here to read the full letter sent from the ten Eastern Governors.

Does Clean Line have an Avian Program?

Yes. The goal of Clean Line’s Avian Program is to advance progress towards electric transmission systems that are safer for all avian species. The Avian Program establishes a framework for reducing risks to birds and describes Clean Line’s policy to develop and implement Avian Protection Plans specific to each transmission system.  To read and download Clean Line Energy Partners’ Avian Program, please click here.

What is an Avian Protection Plan?

An Avian Protection Plan, or APP, describes specific ways to reduce the operational and avian risks that result from avian interactions with electric utility facilities. Clean Line’s Avian Protection Plans will consider specific habitat types, species, and system components when evaluating potential risks. Each APP will also identify avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to address avian risk for each transmission system. To learn more about Avian Protection Plan guidance, please see the Avian Powerline Interaction Committee’s website here.

What is the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee?

The Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) leads the electric utility industry in protecting avian resources while enhancing reliable energy delivery. The members consist of over 50 utility companies, wildlife resource agencies, conservation groups, and manufacturers of avian protection products that work together to understand the causes of bird/power line electrocutions and collisions and to develop ways of preventing bird mortalities and associated power outages.  To learn more about APLIC, see www.aplic.org.

What is the Dedicated Metallic Return Conductor?

Under normal operations a bi-pole high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line requires a return path for very small current imbalances.  During emergency operations or certain maintenance operations when one pole is out of service, the full load current will flow through this return path.  In some existing HVDC transmission lines, this return path is via ground electrodes.  The Rock Island Clean Line project will utilize a third set of conductors (wires) on the transmission structure referred to as the dedicated metallic return conductor.  Therefore, during bi-pole or monopole operations, all current will be contained within conductors on the project.