Minnesota Utilities Seek to Increase Access to Renewables

A group of regional utilities has asked Minnesota regulators to approve construction of three major transmission lines to ensure customers continue to get reliable access to low-cost electricity — and to increase access to renewable energy sources.

The Capacity Expansion needed by 2020 (CapX 2020 utilities)—an alliance of 11 electric cooperatives, municipals and investor-owned utilities—asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to determine if the new high-voltage lines and associated projects are needed.

“The 345-kilovolt lines proposed by the CapX 2020 utilities will help ensure continued reliable electricity service in Minnesota and the surrounding region by upgrading and expanding the high voltage transmission network that is the backbone of the region’s electricity system,” said Terry Grove of Great River Energy, a co-leader of the CapX 2020 effort. “Additionally, the lines will strengthen the network so that more wind energy resources can be developed in southern and western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota and South Dakota.”

The proposed lines would span more than 600 miles and represent one of the largest single transmission initiatives in the region in decades. The approximate lengths and general locations of the proposed lines are as follows:

•  A 200-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Brookings, S.D., and the southeast Twin Cities, plus a related 345-kilovolt line between Marshall, Minn., and Granite Falls, Minn.;
•   A 250-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Fargo, N.D., and Alexandria, St. Cloud and Monticello, Minn.;
•  A 150-mile, 345-kilovolt line between the southeast Twin Cities, Rochester, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis.

Following a rigorous public process, the commission is expected to decide whether the lines are needed by early 2009. If the commission decides the projects are needed, it will determine routes for the new lines in separate proceedings. Portions of the lines also will require approvals by federal officials and by regulators in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“In July we mailed information about the lines to nearly 500 local government officials and approximately 73,000 landowners in three proposed study corridors,” said Laura McCarten of Xcel Energy, a CapX 2020 co-leader. “We will work closely with all stakeholders to determine the best routes for the lines if the commission determines they are needed.”

The first four projects represent a combined investment of approximately $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion.


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