- Xcel Energy on Tuesday asked Minnesota regulators to approve a $102 million set of transmission upgrades to reduce congestion and bring more wind energy to the upper Midwest region.
- The project includes installation of a second circuit on two segments of the existing Brookings County-Hampton transmission line, which is owned by a coalition of utilities. Xcel will lead permitting and construction for the project, which will take place in Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.
- The project will help reduce energy costs “by addressing one of the most electrically congested areas in the region,” Xcel said in its application. “Low-cost renewable energy generated in North Dakota, South Dakota, and southern Minnesota faces congestion when flowing to load centers, like the Twin Cities.”
Xcel’s proposal calls for installing a second circuit on double-circuit-capable structures put in place when the Brookings County–Hampton 345 kV transmission line was originally constructed.
That original line was energized in 2015 and is owned by Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Great River Energy, Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power, Otter Tail Power, and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. However, Xcel is the only applicant for the upgrade and “currently the sole owner for the project,” the utility said. Other owners of the original line will be offered a chance to invest in Xcel’s upgrades and the utility said their participation is “expected.”
The work will also include relay setting changes to the Steep Bank Lake and Hawks Nest Lake substations and construction of new poles to maintain the transmission line’s low profile near an airport after the second circuit is installed.
“The project will have far-reaching congestion relief benefits,” Xcel told regulators.
The transmission upgrades could provide Xcel-specific benefits of nearly $335 million in production-cost savings and other quantifiable economic benefits, “as well as significant progress toward carbon-emission reduction policy objectives,” the utility said.
Minnesota in January passed a law requiring utilities to provide electricity from 100% carbon-free sources by 2040.
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator as a whole could see nearly $834 million in benefits, Xcel said.
“This project allows us to use existing infrastructure to decrease congestion on our transmission system while limiting the impact to landowners in the area,” Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy’s Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota operations, said in a statement. “It will bring low-cost, renewable wind energy to millions of homes and businesses, allowing us to further reduce carbon emissions with a focus on meeting customers’ energy needs reliably and affordably.”
MISO has already approved the project. With authorization from Minnesota regulators, Xcel expects to begin installing the new circuit in 2024 and finish the project in 2025. Other local, state and federal approvals may also be required, the company said.