An Iowa State University economist says the proposed high-voltage transmission line that would stretch through 16 Iowa counties is likely to help bolster the wind industry in the Dakotas. Economist David Swenson says although the proposed “Rock Island Clean Line” cuts across 500 miles in Iowa and will transport energy from many of the state’s wind farms, starting in northwest Iowa’s O’Brien County.

“It’s trying to move electricity that we all depend on that is clean through the many states that are going to depend on and use that electricity, so it’s going to have a general impact on the region,” Swenson says. “it’s not going to have a great impact on the state of Iowa.” Land is far cheaper in the Dakotas than it is in Iowa and Swenson says that will make the “high plains” states a more attractive place to erect wind turbines, once transmission routes to more highly-populated states are established.

“We’re going to continue to put up wind mills so long as it’s economically feasible to put wind mills up in Iowa,” Swenson says. “We anticipate the wind energy industry shifting to the north and to the west as the Dakotas become more accessible and that’s what these large-capacity lines make possible — the next wave in wind energy development.” The Rock Island Clean Line ends in eastern Illinois and would connect to transmission lines that take electricity into Chicago and connect to the grids serving Indiana and Ohio, too.

The Rock Island Clean Line filed paperwork with the Iowa Utilities Board earlier this month, asking for a transmission franchise in Iowa. State utility regulators are being asked to approve the company’s proposed route through Iowa. It would enter the state in northwest Iowa’s O’Brien County and exit on the east in Scott County, just north of the Quad Cities.