N.D. gives Minnkota Power OK to build 345-kV project

North Dakota regulators on April 25 issued a route permit to Minnkota Power Cooperative, authorizing the company to build its Center to Grand Forks 345-kV transmission line project.

A Minnkota spokesperson told TransmissionHub April 27 that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) “earlier approved a wider corridor and then narrowed it down to the route [noted in the PSC’s April 25 order] within that corridor.”

He continued, “We got our finding of no significant impact [FONSI] from the Rural Utilities Service, so we’re pretty much good to go. We expect to start construction in mid-May.”

The spokesperson also said this is probably the longest transmission line to be built in the state in three decades.

According to the order, Minnkota proposes to build and operate the estimated $312m project, which consists of about 250 miles of new, high voltage AC transmission line and associated facilities extending from the existing Center 345-kV substation at the Milton R. Young Unit 2 (Young 2) generation station in Oliver County, N.D., to the existing Prairie 345-kV substation in Grand Forks County, N.D.

The project will be located in Burleigh, Oliver, McLean, Sheridan, Wells, Eddy, Foster, Griggs, Steele, Nelson and Grand Forks counties.

The PSC also said that most of the project will be built using single-pole, self-supporting, self-weathering steel, single circuit structures placed on drilled pier foundations. The typical structures will range in height from about 95 feet to 180 feet, and the typical span between the structures will be about 1,000 feet.

Associated facilities will include upgrades or additions to the Center substation, the Square Butte 230-kV substation, the Prairie substation and an existing 230-kV tie line, the PSC said, adding that a new 230-kV tie line between the Center substation and the Square Butte substation will be built.

The proposed route will span the Missouri River, which is designated critical habitat for the federally threatened piping plover, but there will be no direct impacts to the designated critical habitat. The PSC also said that no construction will take place within the designated critical habitat for the shorebird, structures will be placed about 150 feet from the river’s edge, Minnkota will not construct across the river during the piping plover’s typical breeding season and, during construction, no equipment will be placed in the Missouri River.

Minnkota has agreed to mitigate the project’s impact and will use construction monitors and inspectors to ensure compliance with all applicable permits.

The PSC also said that the project is needed to provide Minnkota with access to the base load generation provided by the Young 2 generation station and to address grid reliability issues in and around Minnkota’s service territory.

Minnkota said it chose the proposed route based on various factors, including input from landowners and agencies; minimizing environmental impacts through measures such as avoidance of wetlands, cultural sites and environmentally sensitive areas; wind developer recommendations; and feasibility from a design and construction perspective, according to the PSC.

Project benefits include providing Minnkota and its member-owned distribution cooperatives with access to additional low-cost base load generation to serve increasing load in their service territories; improving grid reliability; generating long-term state and local tax revenue; providing construction-related jobs; and stimulus to local economies in the form of expenditures for products and services.

The PSC also said that the project is expected to be in service by the fourth quarter of 2013.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3205 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.