Jeffrey Tomich of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently wrote an excellent article about a transmission line proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners, a Houston-based transmission company.  This article struck me as being particularly timely, as there are (at least) two significant problems that keep us from achieving renewable energy’s full potential in the U.S.: 

1.) Many of the best renewable resources in the country lack necessary access to the transmission grid; and

2.) Due to a number of factors, as we have discussed before, local opposition often poses substantial barriers to successful renewable energy developments.  

Fortunately, there are innovative companies out there like  that have set out to find creative solutions to both of these issues.  

First, as Mr. Tomich describes in his article, to address the transmission access problem, Clean Line is focusing on constructing high-voltage transmission lines to connect areas of the country that are rich in renewable resources but far from the current transmission grid with population centers across the country.   Clean Line is currently proposing to construct roughly 2,750 miles of transmission lines across the country, which in turn will help facilitate the development of countless new renewable energy projects.

To address the second issue, it appears that Clean Line is looking for opportunities to proactively reduce local opposition to their projects.  Clean Line has recently announced that it will work in collaboration with Missouri chapter of The Nature Conservancy to mitigate the environmental impacts of the Grain Belt Express, an estimated $1.7 billion, 550-mile long high-voltage direct current transmission line that will deliver up to 3,500 MW of renewable energy from Kansas to Southeastern Missouri.

Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy, had this to say about the announcement:

Siting a transmission line is a long and challenging process and it’s our responsibility and intent to develop and build this project the right way. We appreciate the opportunity to work with and receive guidance from the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy as we gather relevant information that will aid in the development, construction and operation of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line. 

We live in a world of corporations and non-profits, which can make it easy to forget that NIMBY activism usually starts with a few individual people who feel like their voices have not been heard.  With this simple truth in mind, it seems to me that working towards collaborative solutions early in a project’s developments is one of the best (and most cost-efficient) ways to ensure that all parties feel like their input has been valued, which in turn reduces tensions before they develop into potentially project-threatening NIMBY opposition.  I have to applaud companies like Clean Line who actively try to facilitate these relationships early and often.