KANSAS CITY, Mo. (by Mona Shand)- It appears the winds of change are blowing in Missouri, as more people speak out in favor of a plan to build a high-voltage wind energy transmission line through the state.

Jim Turner, executive committee chair of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club, says the line, which would transfer 3,500 megawatts of power from wind farms in Kansas, would help the state move away from its reliance on coal, as required by a ballot initiative.

It mandates that the state's utilities generate at least 15 percent renewable energy by 2021, which Turner says has environmental and health benefits.

"Coal burning results in mercury compounds being dropped into our waters, and accumulating in our fish," he points out. "Coal smoke is bad for the lungs of people who live within range of our coal plant smokestacks."

Some homeowners and farmers have voiced concerns the line will change their way of life, but the exact route has not been determined and several possibilities are under review.

The Public Service Commission is accepting comments on the plan, and is expected to make a final decision toward the end of December.

Gerald Nickelson, president of the IUE-CWA Local 86114, works for a company in western Missouri that makes transformers for electric companies.

He says in recent years, more and more contracts have come from wind farms, and he believes the transmission line would be a major economic boon for the state.

"You'll have the construction jobs of the individuals that'll come out and actually put up those poles," he stresses. "You'll have maintenance jobs, there'll be electrician jobs.

"I know the unemployment rate here is Missouri is kind of high right now. To me, anything that would help create jobs in the state will be a plus. "

The project, known as the Grain Belt Express, is one of five long-haul transmission lines planned across the country by Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners.

Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

(Courtesy of Missouri News Service)