Xcel Energy presents proposed power line routes from Lyon County to Sherco power plant near Becker, Minnesota
Open house offered residents and landowners an early look at the routes being considered for a high-voltage power line project
WILLMAR — Landowners who might be affected by a proposed high-voltage transmission line had an early opportunity to look at detailed maps and talk to Xcel Energy representatives at an open house in Willmar on Wednesday.
The open house is among several the company is hosting along the proposed route for what it is calling the Minnesota Energy Connection. The open houses have been attracting anywhere from 120 to 150 people, according to Randy Fordice, senior media representative for Xcel. In Willmar, there were an estimated 75 visitors during the first hour of the three-hour-long open house at the Willmar Conference Center.
The company is proposing to develop a roughly 160- to 180-mile, double-circuit, 345-kilowatt transmission line connecting a yet-to-be-built substation in Lyon County to the Sherco power plant site near Becker, Minnesota. It will be designed to carry at least 2,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy sources in southwest Minnesota to the grid connections available at the Sherco site, according to Fordice.
The renewable energy will replace the power now being produced by the Sherco coal-fired plant, which is to be retired as part of Xcel Energy’s clean energy transition.
At this point, there are more than 20 possible routes for the transmission line. Landowners along all of the potential routes received mailings notifying them of the open houses and explaining how they can view maps for their specific locations on a Minnesota Energy Connection website at mnenergyconnection.com .
Xcel is gathering input from landowners and local government officials along the proposed route. That input is important as Xcel determines a final route for the transmission line, Fordice said. The company will propose at least two possible routes, and perhaps a third, to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in September. It will have the final say on which to approve.
In selecting a route, Xcel Energy will be looking to use existing infrastructure, such as transmission lines and roads, as much as possible, according to Fordice. The company is also looking for a route that is the "least impactful," and that is why the early input is so important, he explained.
Xcel Energy will develop a substation at a location to be determined in Lyon County as the gateway for renewable energy. Fordice said Xcel Energy published a request for information one year ago. It learned that there are a number of renewable energy projects in some phase of development in the region, confirming Lyon County as the right location for the substation.
The renewable energy projects in the works are predominantly for wind power, but solar is part of the mix as well, he said.
The company will be seeking 150-foot-wide easements for steel towers to hold the transmission line. The towers will be 100 to 150 feet in height. Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law will mean that some landowners impacted by the transmission line route will have the option of requiring Xcel Energy to purchase the entire farm instead of an easement.
Xcel Energy is expecting it will cost up to $700 million to develop the line. It anticipates receiving PUC approval in late 2024 for the project and route. Detailed engineering and design and easement acquisition will be undertaken in 2025, with construction to occur 2026-2028.
Information about the project and maps of the proposed routes can be found on the MN Energy Connection website . On the site, click "maps" and in the top right hand corner of the power line map, viewers can type in their address to see their location in relation to the proposed routes.