The Rock Island Clean Line is a 500-mile overhead high voltage direct current transmission line that will deliver 3,500 megawatts from northwest Iowa and the surrounding region to communities in Illinois and other states to the east, areas that have a strong demand for clean, reliable energy. The name of the project comes from the Rock Island Railroad, which stretches across the entire state of Iowa, through the city of Rock Island and into Illinois.
This exciting and vital project is being met with resistance from a variety of angles. Most of that resistance is rooted in misinformation about the industry as a whole. Bottom line: wind energy is clean, endless and a resource for both power and economic impact.
The Rock Island Clean Line is estimated to provide more than 5,000 construction jobs and more than 500 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the wind farms and the transmission line. In addition to these jobs, the Rock Island Clean Line will spur increased employment opportunities in many sectors including manufacturing of turbines, towers and cable, as well as hospitality and education.
As a member of the board of directors for the American Wind Energy Association, and supplier of product that serves the wind industry itself, I felt it was imperative that I shared my views on the importance of the Rock Island Clean line. I wrote an OpEd piece that was distribute to a variety of local newspapers -- here's that letter.
Leeco® Steel has been an active supplier and supporter to the wind energy industry for more than six years. As the main supplier of plate steel to the wind industry in North America, we understand that the industry itself is quite young in the United States. We have seen it evolve first hand into an integral component of a national energy policy. Lecco’s Steel’s involvement with wind energy has not been on the perimeter. We have rolled up our sleeves and educated ourselves on best practices, immersed ourselves in our customers business and took action on national policy as a board member of the American Wind Energy Association.
Wind energy has already proven a reliable energy source by providing significant amounts of electricity across major parts of the U.S. Iowa produces more than 20 percent of its electricity from wind, and wind energy recently provided more than 25 percent of the electricity being used across 11 Midwest states. A 2012 report from Synapse Energy Economics found that wind energy can save the average Midwestern household up to $200 per year.
Reports from Minnesota show that in 2011, wind power contributed 12.7 percent of its electricity generation, supported up to 3,000 jobs and contributed $8 million in land-lease payments. And that is just one state.
Data and analysis from utilities, the government and independent utility system operators confirm that adding wind energy displaces large quantities of fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide pollution. That’s because when the wind is blowing, the electricity generated displaces the output of the most expensive, least efficient power plants. Utility operators accommodate gradual and predictable changes in wind output with the same tools they use to deal with fluctuations in electricity demand as well as sudden outages of large fossil and nuclear power plants, which are far more costly to deal with.
Leeco Steel understands that wind power is a vital component of a national energy policy and we know the Rock Island Clean Line is a smart idea for our energy independence.