Transmission

Minnesota Transmisson Study Suggests Grid Upgrades for Renewable Energy

A new study released by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security shows that the state's power grid could accomodate 600 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity by making upgrades to electric transmission systems. A previous study had shown that another 600 MW could be added to the existing tranmission grid without impacting it's performance.

"Dispersed Renewable Generation Transmission Study Phase II" completes a two-part study chartered by the Minnesota legislature as part of the Minnesota NextGen Energy Act passed in 2007. The act calls for 25 percent of the total energy used in the state to be derived from renewable energy resources by the year 2025. In order to meet that goal, dispersed generation of the grid would allow many distributed power generators, such as wind farms, to add significant energy capacity to the system. Together, the combined studies created complex computer models designed to add 1200 MW of dispersed capacity by the year 2013.

Phase I, completed in June 2008, identified locations in the state transmission grid where a total of 600 MW of renewable energy projects could be developed with little or no changes required to the existing grid infrastructure. Although the study noted that dispersed generation can have impacts on the electric grid, it concluded that the majority of the 600 MW could be sited without disruptions at locations in southern Minnesota. In fact, in 2008 the state added 454 MW of commercial wind power with the vast majority sited in southwestern Minnesota.

Proposed DRG Phase II Sites

Phase II of the study sought an additional 600 MW and found that there were limited locations in the state that could accommodate 10-40 MW generation projects without incurring some amount of transmission investment. So, the study team focused on sites that could potentially accommodate generation with only minor transmission investments, not the construction of new high-voltage transmission routes. The total cost of the transmission upgrades were estimated to be $121 million. In comparsion, the CapX 2020 project for constructing three new high-voltage transmission lines across the state is estimated to cost $1.7 billion.

As a result of the studies, the Minnesota Office of Energy Security concluded that achieving the renewable energy goal calls for a dual strategy of:

  • Using our existing transmission infrastructure more efficiently, through increased energy conservation and efficiency, demand response, emerging efficiency technologies and dispersed renewable generation where it can be interconnected reliably, and
  • Significantly increasing high-voltage transmission capacity in the state.

The studies and explanatory recorded webinars are available from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security on the link below.

Tom Wind (Wind Utility Consulting) acting as a consultant to Windustry served as a member of the Technical Review Committee for both studies.

Minnesota Transmission Owners Notice of Public Meetings

Minnesota electric utilities with transmission lines in the state are required by law to conduct transmission planning and identify reasonably foreseeable inadequacies in the electric transmission system.  This process is particularly important for local government officials, but the general public is also encouraged to participate, and Community Wind advocates may want to pay particular attention as access to adequate transmission is often a key element for the success of a project.

In order to inform the public of the planning process and to solicit input from the public on possible inadequacies and activities that may affect demand for electricity, a series of webcasts will be held in mid-September.  Each webcast relaties to a discrete portion of the state.  Complete details for dates, times and access can be found in the attachments to this article.  

The Public Utilities Commission requires a report on this planning process every two years.  This is a reporting year, with the report being due November 1.  

Transmission Cost Allocation Proposal Threatens Wind Development

Washington, DC, August 13, 2009 - The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and its regional partner Wind on the Wires (WOW) have filed a protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging rejection of a proposal from the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO).

MISO claims that current cost allocation rules produce inequitable results for a few transmission owners in some circumstances. In particular, the transmission system operator maintains that the existing cost-allocation method can introduce high costs to a small group of transmission owners with facilities in the vicinity of, but whose load is not proportionally benefited by, upgrades to the system necessary to accommodate interconnection requests from generators.

AWEA and WOW argue that the problem is impacting only a small fraction of transmission owners in the Midwest ISO’s footprint, but the proposal would overhaul the cost allocation for the entire region without any justification for removing costs from the vast majority of transmission owners and imposing them on generators.

“The proposed policy change is like requiring the next car entering a congested highway to pay the full cost of adding a new lane,” said WOW Director Beth Soholt. “Obviously such a policy is unworkable, which in our case means that wind projects will not be able to connect to the grid.”

“At a time when the wind industry is one of the few bright spots of the U.S. economy, having created 35,000 new jobs last year, this policy is saying the Midwest is becoming less friendly for the wind business, and that will clearly have an impact on not only wind development but manufacturing and supply-chain jobs throughout the region,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.

Read the filing of Protest of The
American Wind Energy Association
and Wind On The Wires
.

Minnesota Transmission Line to Carry Wind Energy

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.

Brookings County-Hampton Transmission Line Project Application Review

The CapX2020 utilities filed a permit on December 29, 2008 for the Brookings County-Hampton 345kV transmission line project at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

As required by law the application contains two route options for the approximately 240-mile transmission line and associated substations. The MN Public Utilities Commission will decide on a route and issue a permit after a public process that includes public input through meetings and hearings.

The permit application is available to view online as well as at one of the following local libraries:

  • Brookings Public Library
  • Redwood Falls Public Library
  • New Ulm Public Library
  • Bird Island Public Library
  • Carver County Library
  • Henderson Public Library
  • Chippewa County Public Library
  • Scott County Library - Shakopee Branch
  • Granite Falls Public Library
  • Northfield Public Library
  • Montgomery Public Library
  • Heritage Library
  • Ivanhoe Public Library
  • Farmington Library
  • Marshall-Lyon County Library
  • St. Peter Public Library
  • Hutchinson Public Library

For more information and to view this route application online please click here. For more information on all the CapX2020 activities, you can visit their website at www.capx2020.com. CapX2020 consists of 11 utilities that own transmission lines in Minnesota and the surrounding region.

Phase I of Minnesota Dispersed Renewable Generation study available

The passage of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 by the Minnesota State Legislature and Tim Pawlenty requires a study of the potential for dispersed renewable generation statewide. The study consists of two parts, Phase I and Phase II, which focus on installing a total of 1200MW of new dispersed renewable energy projects with a minimal impact on the transmission grid. As determined by the legislation, project sizes under consideration are limited to between 10 and 40MW. For the study the state is split into six regions while focusing on the five out-state regions - the NW, NE, W-C, SW and SE - for potential for dispersed generation The Minnesota utilities affected by the 25x25' (25% by 2025) renewable energy standard are performing the analytical work with oversight by the projects Technical Review Committee (TRC).

On June, 16th 2008 the results of Phase I of the study were released. The first phase of the study, the appendices, and the presentation slides for the study's release can be found at the Minnesota Department of Commerce page.

Webinar: Landowner Options Wind Energy in Great Lakes Region

 Webinar:  Landowner Options Wind Energy- October 11, 2007

 

Links to webinar materials:

  • Wind Energy: Landowner Options - This presentation covers the different options landowners have for participating in wind energy, with much of the presentation devoted to best practices and tips for leasing your land to a wind developer.
  • Using a Dispersed Strategy in Your Region - This presentation covers the basics of transmission and distribution and how to use transmission maps and tables.

We invite you to use these slides for your own meetings and presentations.

Windustry Newsletter - Winter 2000/2001

Winter 2000/2001 Newsletter

Cultivating a U.S. Wind Energy Vision

This year, more than ever, the issue of wind energy has surfaced in an extensive array of new venues. Broad wind energy forums have been held in many states including Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska. Regional meetings with wind as the central theme were held this year in Wisconsin and West Virginia, and one is planned for Washington State in January 2001.

Windustry has participated in and learned about numerous local town meetings in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. A major new initiative called Wind Powering America has been sponsoring many of these meetings by working collaboratively with local partners and reaching out to new audiences — farmers and ranchers, rural community leaders, elected officials, Native American tribal leaders, clean energy advocates, large and small utilities, state, regional and national administrators and anyone else interested.

Wind has also made its way into the mainstream media. Substantial articles have featured wind power in publications ranging from the New York Times and the Smithsonian magazine to local rural dailies. The articles relate a variety of perspectives including wind as a new resource competing with traditional fossil fuels and other new generation; wind as the fastest growing energy industry in the world; wind as a compatible land use with ranching; and wind turned from curse to blessing as farmers reap benefits.

All of the gatherings and press coverage have helped those who live with the wind to envision new wind power projects and have empowered new participants in wind energy development. As a result, a wide range of new wind energy has been installed and planned in various regions throughout the U.S. While some projects are baby steps, others are major wind power plants. Some wind projects are rate-based with their cost spread evenly to all utility customers. Others depend on volunteers to subscribe to higher premiums to pay for investments in wind energy. Much of the new capacity has been spurred by state legislative requirements such as Renewable Portfolio Standards in Texas, Systems Benefits Charge in California and mandates in Minnesota and Iowa.

The wind blowing across the U.S. has the potential to generate six times as much electricity as the entire country currently uses. However, there are a few barriers to overcome. The electricity produced from the large modern machines is too great to store with today’s technology so it must go direct onto the electrical grid. Transmission lines with unused capacity are scarce and building new ones is difficult and expensive. Also, wind energy is an intermittent resource. Even though experts predict that up to 20% of our electricity mix can be supplied by wind without compromising reliability, utilities are not embracing it. Modern wind turbines regulate power well, and thousands of installations worldwide have demonstrated that utility systems are capable of accommodating the changing wind power just as they modify their output to follow changing demand. “Wind is now a serious player in the energy market-place,” says national wind advisor Ed DeMeo of Renewable Energy Consulting Services.

Utility survey after survey has shown that wind energy is a preferred source of electricity. As traditional fuel sources fluctuate in price or become limited in supply, and as the global warming debate heats up, the U.S. will harvest its wind resource at an ever increasing pace. While less than 1% of the electricity used by American house-holds is currently produced by wind, the existing U.S. wind capacity may well double to 5,000 MW by the end of 2001. As shown on the map above, states in the West/Southwest and Midwest regions are the nation’s wind industry leaders, and distributed installations are gaining significant footholds even in regions without large-scale projects.

People across the country are exploring the potential for wind energy development as they work through the challenges. They are carefully and thoughtfully negotiating land leases with wind developers, they are pooling their capital and putting up their own utility scale machines, they are putting up residential or farm/small business sized wind turbines, and they are pledging contributions to wind programs. New partnerships and alliances to foster wind energy are emerging. Rural community members in particular have begun asking their utilities to install wind turbines and are contacting their elected officials in support of wind incentives and statutes to help build wind power markets. Everyone is wrestling the transmission issues which are the vital farm-to-market roads for this new crop.

Map of US Wind Capacity (to view the map use the pdf link at the bottom of the page)

Northwest/Northern Rockies
Distributed: 32 MW
Large-Scale: 85 MW
31,000 Households

West/Southwest
Distributed: 30 MW
Large-Scale: 1,786 MW
690,000 Households

Midwest
Distributed: 74 MW
Large-Scale: 471 MW
150,000 Households

Southeast/Atlantic
Distributed: 11 MW
3,000 Households

Northeast
Distributed: 25 MW
10,000 Households

More than 170 MW of "distributed" wind generation capacity (single wind turbines and small clusters, both residential and utility-scale) are installed in the 35 states denoted above. Five states with the largest arrays of turbines — California, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, and Wyoming — are hosting another 2,340 MW in large-scale wind farms. Together approximately 14,000 wind turbines across the U.S. are currently generating enough power to serve the annual electric needs of nearly 900,000 households. This figure was calculated based on each state's 1999 residential customer usage rate and assuming an average 30% turbine capacity factor, which represents an average hub height wind speed of 16 mph.

Washington's first large-scale project approved!

After successful negotiations between FPL Energy and Blue Mountain Audubon Society, Walla Walla County in Washington State issued a conditional use permit last month for approximately half of the planned 300 MW "Stateline Wind Project". In a state with a history of wind facility siting challenges, FPL gained support from local environmentalists by agreeing to withdraw a few groups of turbines and to continue monitoring the sites for avian activity before applying for a second permit for the additional turbines next spring. Construction will begin in January; the full project is expected to be online by the end of 2001. For more information: www.rnp.org.

Moorhead Wants More Wind Power

In the no-nonsense, brisk pace of four weeks, Moorhead Public Service (MPS), a municipal utility in North-west Minnesota, signed up enough customers to buy a second community-owned 750 kW wind turbine. Due to the popularity and enormous success of its initial one turbine offering in their Capture the Wind program, MPS announced plans for Phase II in October. For just a half-penny more per kilowatt hour (kWh), MPS residential or business customers can choose to purchase either all or part of their electricity from the project. With 13,000 customers, MPS' total of nearly 900 Capture the Wind members represent a 7% participation rate, one of the highest among all green power programs across the nation. Each Capture the Wind customer who uses 1,000 kWh of electricity per month will prevent 8,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air, which has the same effect on the environment as planting 1.2 acres of trees or removing one car from the road each year. For more information: Capture the Wind hotline at (218) 299-5199 or www.mpsutility.com.

Click on the link below to read the pdf version.

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