Unanimous approval granted to CapX2020 line in Minnesota

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on April 12 unanimously approved the route permit application for the Minnesota portion of the CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line.

“This has been a long road. We filed our first permit for CapX2020 [projects] in Minnesota in 2007 so it’s a historic day,” a spokesperson for CapX2020 told TransmissionHub shortly after the 4-0 approval. “In terms of the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project, unanimous approval in Minnesota sends the right message that Minnesota fully supports the project, [and that] they absolutely support the need for the project.”

In addition to applicant Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL), Oronoco Township, the North Route Citizens Alliance and American Transmission Co. (ATC) also made statements. Approximately 45 members of the public also spoke, which was more than expected, according to the CapX2020 spokesperson.

Following the testimony, the PUC approved the route permit selected by an administrative law judge (ALJ) on Feb. 8. The commission’s approval allows developers to start engineering work on the line and right-of-way work.

The preferred route selected by the ALJ follows a course from Hampton, Minn., to the Mississippi River crossing near Alma, Wisc. The route was one of three options considered.

According to the CapX2020 website, the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line will improve reliability for the Twin Cities, Rochester and La Crosse areas, as well as improve access to generation in the south east part of Minnesota.

The double circuit capable 345-kV line will run between a new substation near Hampton, Minn., the proposed North Rochester Substation between Zumbrota and Pine Island, Minn., and continue on to cross the Mississippi River near Alma, Wis. A single circuit 345-kV line will be built in Wisconsin to a new substation in the La Crosse area.

Four public hearings were held March 13 and 14 in Wisconsin concerning the Alma-La Crosse segment of the line. Seven parties filed initial briefs with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) on March 30 and four parties answered with reply briefs on April 6.

PSCW staff will issue a briefing memo on April 20, and the commission will hold its hearing some time in mid-May. The PSCW must issue its decision by June 4.

Even though the Wisconsin decision is still pending, CapX2020 officials are optimistic. “Now we have a route, and we hope to start construction in 7 to 8 months,” the spokesperson said.