Otter Tail Power proposes upgrading 69-kV line to 115-kV

Otter Tail Power Co. is proposing to upgrade eight miles of 69-kV line that serves Bemidji, Minn., to 115-kV, a move the utility says will enhance the reliability and increase the capacity of the line and the system as a whole.

“There’s quite a lot of development going on in Bemidji [including] a hospital expansion and a hotel expansion among other things,” a spokesperson for Otter Tail told TransmissionHub Aug. 24. As a result, electrical load growth in the Bemidji area is greater than recent projections anticipated and is estimated to continue to grow in the future.

To reliably serve these loads, Otter Tail is proposing modifications to four substations as well as the upgrading of an existing 69-kv transmission line to 115-kV.

Bemidji is a town of about 12,000 located approximately 220 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Rebuilding the line to 115-kV and using heavier conductor would remove overload concerns. It would also boost the reliability of the transmission line because the 115-kV system has better lightning shielding than the 69-kV system, and would better serve the existing and future growth and additional loads that are in the planning stages in the City of Bemidji, according to the utility.

Because the project is under 200-kV and because it is located entirely within the city limits, Otter Tail had the option of seeking a local permitting authority do the permitting as opposed to going to the Minnesota Pubic Utilities Commission (PUC).

Otter Tail sought out the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, the permitting authority for the city of Bemidji, which subsequently agreed to act as the local government unit on the project. Otter Tail advised the PUC that it had sought and received local approval in a letter dated Aug. 13.

“If the PUC has a concern, they will notify us, and then we would follow a different process,” the spokesperson said. “Otherwise, we proceed with this established procedure.”

Under the local review process, the joint planning board will be responsible for hiring a firm to do the environmental review, and Otter Tail will apply to the board for its conditional use permit, the spokesperson said. Both processes will require public meetings and public input.

Following the public comment phase, the joint planning board will determine whether to grant the use permit.

The utility is currently in the local/state permitting process. It anticipates undertaking substation upgrades over the 2014 – 2018 time period, and upgrading the transmission lines over the 2013 – 2018 time period.

The project is expected to be completed during 4Q18.

Otter Tail Power is a subsidiary of Otter Tail (NYSE:OTTR).