ND approves Fargo-St. Cloud CapX2020 line

The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) on Sept. 12 granted a certificate of corridor compatibility and route permit to Northern States Power Company (NSP) d/b/a Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) for the Fargo-St. Cloud CapX2020 power line.

The panel voted two-to-one in favor of a 35-mile route for the 345-kV line that runs from the Bison substation northwest of Fargo, N.D., to the Minnesota border, crossing the Red River about 20 miles south of Fargo.

Although he agreed that the project is necessary, commissioner Kevin Cramer voted against the alignment, citing concerns about the impact the line would have on the communities of Oxbow and Hickson, south of Fargo.

In his dissenting opinion, Cramer countered company concerns about higher cost and longer construction time that would accompany a longer alignment that avoided those communities.

“I am not persuaded by the companies’ assessment,” he wrote. “When properly adjusted (e.g., over a 50 year life expectancy and the MISO allocation process), the eventual costs are not so significant to override [my] concerns,” noting that the same logic extended to project delays.

“Considering the long term consequences overwhelmingly borne by those citizens who realize little or no benefit, I am not sufficiently convinced to accept the companies’ proposals,” Cramer concluded.

Commission chair Brian Kalk and commissioner Bonny Fetch voted in favor of the route. While not unsympathetic to Cramer’s concerns, Kalk noted that the line would have an impact on someone regardless of the alignment chosen.

“This line needed to be built to meet demand,” Kalk told TransmissionHub Sept. 17. “The company did their best to modify some things to meet concerns around different parts [of the line, but] at the end of the day, the power line needs to be built and needs to go somewhere.”

CapX2020 officials said the project would bring quantifiable benefits to the area.

“The Fargo-St. Cloud project … will increase reliability in the growing Fargo area and surrounding rural areas and improve access to renewable generation in North Dakota,” Priti Patel, CapX2020 co-executive director and director of strategic transmission initiatives at Xcel Energy, said in a statement issued after the PSC’s action.

Action on the North Dakota permits concludes the state regulatory process required for the four CapX2020 Group 1 projects, the CapX2020 statement continued. Regulators in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota have already acted on CapX2020 permits, though opponents continue to pursue legal action against some of the projects.

Great River Energy, Minnesota Power, Missouri River Energy Services, NSP, and Otter Tail Power Company are the CapX2020 utilities participating in and expected to own a share of the Fargo Project, the PSC said in its ruling.

Construction is expected to start in early 2013 near the Bison substation. Erecting180 structures and stringing line will take place in 2014 through 2015, according to the CapX2020 project schedule.

Foundation construction continues on the Minnesota portion of the line between Alexandria, Minn., and St. Cloud. Xcel Energy expects to start erecting structures in late fall, with completion in early 2013, according to CapX2020. The project, including the North Dakota segment, is expected to be in service in 2015.

CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 IOUs, co-ops and municipal utilities in the upper Midwest. The CapX2020 projects, which include three 345-kV transmission lines and a 230-kV line, are projected to cost nearly $2bn and cover a distance of more than 700 miles.

Minnesota Power is a division of ALLETE (NYSE:ALE).

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

This article, originally published on Sept. 14, was updated Sept. 17 to include comments from Commission chair Kalk.