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CAPX line expansion on the fast track, YM board told

Single steel poles will replace the existing timber 'H' frame utility poles. The project calls for replacing the 115-kilovolt line with a 345-kilovolt line. Submitted

GRANITE FALLS -- A new and larger power line could be humming with wind-generated electricity through west central Minnesota in 2015.

Permits are in place for the 240-mile-long CAPX 2020 electrical transmission line to run from Brookings, S.D., to the Hampton substation in Scott County. Randy Fordice, representing the CAPX 2020 project, outlined the project's progress to the Yellow Medicine County board of commissioners on Tuesday.

The estimated, $700 million to $725 million project calls for upgrading an existing 115-kilovolt line with a larger capacity, 345-kilovolt line. Timber 'H' shaped utility poles will be replaced with single steel poles 140- to 170- feet tall.

The route approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission essentially follows the existing line, according to Fordice. The approved route runs through portions of Yellow Medicine and Renville counties.

The project also calls for building a new electrical sub-station in Hazel Run Township southwest of Granite Falls, and upgrading the branch from the main line to the new substation. It will connect to the existing, Minnesota Valley substation owned by Xcel Energy at its plant in Granite Falls.

The utilities have identified a 15-acre site for what will be called the Hazel Creek substation.

A consortium of power utilities -- including Great River Energy, Otter Tail Power and Xcel Energy -- are among the partners involved in the CAPX 2020 project to increase the electrical transmission system in the upper Midwest.

The Brookings to Hampton line is likely to be constructed between 2012 and 2014. Fordice said affected landowners within a corridor along the route will be contacted next year with information on the plans.

The line is being built to improve system reliability and increase capacity for the electrical transmission network in the Midwest.

Initially, the project was defined by regulators as a generation outlet line. Consequently those sending power over the line would have been responsible for its construction costs. In that case, it was estimated that wind power generators would have been paying most of the freight, according to Fordice.

Subsequently, regulators revised the assessment. They now consider the line to be a multi-value project since system reliability- and service to existing substations and existing fossil fuel plants- are also benefited, he said. That means the costs for the line's construction will be shared by power consumers in all 15 of the states and one Canadian province that are part of this regional grid.

Fordice said the greater transmission capacity will benefit wind generators in the northern portion of the Buffalo Ridge. There is also a long list of proposed wind power projects waiting for approval to build connect to the expanded system.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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