ST. PAUL, MN, April 16, 2009 — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) has granted the CapX2020 utilities a Certificate of Need to construct three 345-kilovolt electric transmission lines in Minnesota. The three lines will run from Fargo, SD to Monticello, MN; from Hampton, MN through Rochester, MN to La Crosse, WI; and from Brookings, SD to Hampton, MN.
CapX2020 is a joint project of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region led by Great River Energy and Xcel Energy to expand the electric transmission grid. "Today's decision provides direction for new transmission that will ensure customers in and near Minnesota will continue to receive reliable electricity and help provide capacity to meet the nation's most aggressive renewable energy standard," said Terry Grove of Great River Energy.As part of its decision the MN PUC required that 700 megawatts of capacity on the Brookings-Hampton line to be reserved for renewable energy, which will allow electricity generated by wind farms in the Buffalo Ridge area of southwestern Minnesota to be transmitted to the Twin Cities area. Moreover, all will be capable for double circuit transmission lines to allow for increased capacity over time.
Some environmentalists opposed the certificate of need, and other critics were concerned that the transmission lines favor existing large power plants over smaller renewable energy sources that would benefit from a different transmission grid infrastructure that was more widely distributed. The MN PUC decision was a compromise between the various propronents and opponents of the project, and it will have an impact on the ability to connect wind farms to the transmission grid in the Midwest.
“It's clear that significant transmission will be needed to reach Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard,” commented Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires, “and the Commission took an important step in granting the utilities the ability to construct the pieces of the transmission system that will deliver renewables to Minnesotans.”
The MN PUC has yet to decide on the lines’ routes, with Route Permit applications currently under state review or in development, and decisions are expected in 2010. Regulatory processes are still pending for line segments in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota; while an additional transmission line has been proposed between Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Construction of the lines could begin in 2012 and take several years to complete.