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Capturing the wind: opportunities for jobs, schools and communities

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Clean Energy talks to local leaders about economic impact of Rock Island project. Clean Energy talks to local leaders about economic impact of Rock Island project.
SHELDON, Iowa (KTIV) -

Wind farms create power, but they also create jobs.  Clean Line Energy has already said a big project centered in Siouxland could create 5,000 construction jobs.

Wednesday, representatives from Clean Line Energy came out to talk to community and business leaders about how the project could potentially bring 500 long-term jobs to the region.

The project calls for installation of nearly 500 miles of power lines to carry energy generated by northwest Iowa wind turbines to Illinois.

"We expect about 500 permanent jobs associated with the project.  That's across both states, but probably 400 of those are in the operations associated with the wind farms that would be in this region," Hans Detweiler, Director of Development with Clean Line Energy said.

In case you're wondering, it's not easy to capture the wind.

"Ask any 3rd grader what's the problem with wind energy, and they'll tell ya, it doesn't always blow," said Detweiler.

Northwest Iowa, is an ideal place to build wind farms to transmit to other regions. Meanwhile some states, including Iowa, have renewable energy standards that have got to be met.

"There's really no way from a land use perspective for them to meet that entirely on their own," Detweiler said.

This is why Clean Line Energy is planning to build a $2 billion project to carry energy from Iowa to Illinois. Right now, they have a lot of regulatory hoops to jump through.

"All of our stakeholder outreach, all of our public meetings we've held, all leads towards gathering information.  We need to make an informed filing with the state boards," Wayne Galli with Clean Line Energy said.

The project is planned to start in O'Brien County, Iowa.  An O'Brien County Supervisor says nothing is set in stone yet, but calls it a potential boon to the region.

"Several years ago some of the wind farms came into the area and got options on land to put up towers, but because there was no way to get the power out, so they've been on hold," O'Brien County Supervisor James DeBoom said.

And since the project will span about 500 miles, it's bound to upset some landowners. But one landowner who might have to sell his land, says he's receptive.

"I was not looking at it in regards to being a hindrance, but an opportunity economically for the area.  Specifically the school district in O'Brien County and the tax benefits down the road could be quite substantial," David Hobson said.

Besides adding jobs, the company says the project could spur economic growth. Rodd Holtkamp says the project could help small banks.

"The influx of jobs, and whether that's just construction or develops into long term employment it equates over into payroll and that brings money trickling down into the local community," Rodd Holtkamp, Savings Bank said.

Clean Line Energy says the next 20 to 30 months will be key. The company needs clearance from the Iowa Utilities Board, and Illinois Utilities Commission.

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