Idea for energy lines has route in southern Minn.

Published 3:13 pm Saturday, April 25, 2009

Electrical transmission line company ITC Holdings Corp. has one of the largest proposals in the country’s history for a network of transmission lines, and it is possible that one line could go through Freeborn County.

The Green Power Express is merely a concept at this point, said ITC Midwest Director of Communications Tom Petersen. The concept map proposes a transmission line from a Lakefield substation to a substation in Adams.

That line would pass through Jackson, Martin, Faribault, Freeborn and Mower counties. Petersen said specific routes haven’t been determined.

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The Green Power Express is a limited partnership formed by ITC Holdings as a response to demand for moving the power created by wind energy. It was proposed in February after a year of study, Petersen said.

There are delays whenever additional generated electricity is added to the power grid “because the grid is so constrained,” he said. The Green Power Express, which would connect substations with capability for upgrades to handle 765 kilovolt lines and in areas with high wind capacity, would make more room for renewable energy.

“We proposed the Green Power Express to sort of break the bottleneck,” Petersen said.

ITC received the authority April 10 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move forward with the Green Power Express.

The next step for the company is working with the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator — or Midwest ISO, which manages grid operation in 15 Midwest states and one Canadian province. Petersen said ITC will work with Midwest ISO to determine what the Green Power Express will look like and determine other transmission needs in the region.

The Green Power Express proposal presently stretches 3,000 miles over seven states. The entire region has a demand for increased transmission for new wind farms, but North Dakota particularly has a lot of wind potential yet lacks transmission capacity.

“The Green Power Express Project is a network of transmission lines that will transport 12,000 megawatts of power from wind-abundant areas of the Upper Midwest to Midwestern and Eastern states that demand clean, renewable energy. The Project addresses the severe lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate wind energy onto the nation’s electricity grid,” ITC stated in a news release following the FERC ruling.

Petersen said the price tag is $10-12 billion. He said ITC is approaching utilities about finding the most equitable means for the costs and partnering on the project.

The FERC’s decision said: “This makes the project one of the largest, if not the largest, single transmission project ever developed in the United States. The project as proposed would nearly double the miles of 765 kilowatt transmission lines that are currently in operation in the United States. It also would help deliver the approximately 62 gigawatt of proposed wind capacity that is currently in the Midwest ISO’s interconnection queue.”


There is another plan for additional transmission lines in Minnesota. Only these are 345-kilovolt lines.

Xcel Energy and 10 other Minnesota utilities have joined to propose CapX2020. In the first phase there is not a route proposed for Freeborn County.

CapX2020 Co-Executive Director Terry Grove of Great River Energy said the utilities came together because it had been too long since the last major revision to transmission lines statewide.

“The CapX2020 organization was formed in 2005 to develop the new transmission lines,” reads a news release. “The planned 700 miles of electric lines is the largest development of new transmission in Minnesota in nearly 30 years, a period in which electricity demand has dramatically increased.”

There isn’t one proposed for Freeborn County, Grove said, the proposed corridors are driven by load-service needs. The critical sites were Red River Valley, St. Cloud, Rochester and Alexandria.

On April 16, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission granted a certificate of need to CapX2020. The application was filed in August 2007.

Approved were:

A 240-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Brookings County, S.D., and Hampton, plus a 345-kilovolt line between Marshall and Granite Falls.

A 250-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Fargo, N.D., and Alexandria, St. Cloud and Monticello.

A 150-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Hampton, Rochester and La Crosse, Wis.

Now CapX2020 is seeking the route permits.

Grove said CapX2020 recently issued a new round of studies that could include a 345-kV transmission route through Freeborn County. A line could be part of a later phase of CapX2020.

Grove said Midwest ISO ultimately determines how transmission will be managed in the region. Calling the proposals “building blocks,” he said the CapX2020 plan for Minnesota could integrate with the Green Power Express plan for the seven-state region.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman said the proposal would benefit Freeborn County.

“More transmission in our area is going to mean more wind turbine development, which I think is a good thing,” he said.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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