Northern States Power (NSP) d/b/a Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) on March 10 filed with the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) an application for a certificate of corridor compatibility and transmission facility route permit for the Minot Load Serving Project, which would address reliability needs in the City of Minot and surrounding area.
The project consists of the new Magic City substation and an approximately 20.5-mile, 230-kV transmission line connecting the new substation to the existing McHenry substation near the City of Velva. The project, the company added, would be located in McHenry and Ward counties in North Dakota.
Xcel noted that it has performed a route study; conducted outreach to local governments and agencies; held a public meeting; obtained several of the required local permits; and has most of the land rights – about 69% – needed to build the new line and substation.
The project is required to meet increasing electricity demands in the Minot area, the company said, noting that the PSC on Jan. 4 issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
The project’s design is the result of a joint planning effort with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Xcel said, adding that the location for the Magic City substation was selected to be near an existing Basin Electric transmission line to allow a future transmission connection to further improve electric reliability in the Minot area.
Most of the proposed transmission line route follows an existing 115-kV transmission line, Xcel said, noting that it will replace the existing 115-kV line and structures with new single pole, steel, double-circuit structures that will carry the new 230-kV line and the existing 115-kV line for about 20.5 miles. The new structures will be built adjacent to the existing line for most of its length, and additional right of way (ROW) will be obtained due to the need to build the new line adjacent to the existing ROW to allow the existing 115-kV line to remain in service during construction.
Xcel also said that the existing 115-kV wooden H-frame structures will be removed once the new double-circuit transmission lines have been built. North Prairie Township, which is located on the western side of McHenry County, has an ordinance requiring utilities to be built on section lines. Therefore, the company added, the proposed route deviates from the existing transmission line and follows section or half section lines in that township for about 4.2 miles. In addition, about 1.2 miles of new 115-kV transmission line will be built along a new ROW to connect the new Magic City substation to Xcel’s existing electrical grid in the City of Minot.
Upon receipt of all necessary permits, the company said that it intends to begin construction in the fall, and complete construction by the end of 2018, with removal of the existing 115-kV line occurring in spring 2019.
Project impacts are minimized through consolidation of the new 230-kV line with an existing line, the company said.
Xcel discussed potential impacts of the project and its proposed mitigation of those impacts. For instance, regarding land use impacts, the company said that consolidation of the new line with an existing line avoids the requirement for a new corridor; use of single pole structures minimizes the project’s footprint; most of the landowners have signed easement options for the proposed route; and all six residences that are located within 500 feet of the route have signed written waivers.
Of impact to cultural resources, the company noted, for instance, that archaeological survey of the corridor was conducted and a report was submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which concurred that no avoidance was necessary for identified cultural resources, as well as with a finding of “no historic properties affected” on March 1.
Discussing biological resources, the company said that consultation with agencies regarding threatened and endangered species, as well as review of potential habitat, did not identify suitable Dakota skipper or other listed species habitat in the project corridor. Also, installation of bird flight diverters would minimize potential impacts to migrating whooping cranes. Bald eagle nests were identified and, if they are occupied, nearby work would be scheduled outside of the nesting season, the company added.
Among other things, Xcel discussed impact to wetlands, noting that consolidation with an existing transmission corridor minimizes such impacts; the project design avoids impacts where possible by spanning wetlands with the transmission line and avoiding access routes in wetlands; and coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) resulted in an agreement that proposed route and structure placement will be compatible with USFWS wetland easements.