The North Dakota Public Service Commission, in an Oct. 4 order, issued to Northern States Power (NSP) d/b/a Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) a certificate of corridor compatibility, designating a corridor for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a proposed approximately 20.5-mile, 230-kV electric transmission line, Magic City substation, and associated facilities to be located in Ward and McHenry counties in North Dakota.
For purposes of the certificate, the commission said that the designated corridor is 300 feet wide centered on the transmission route.
Also, the commission said that it issues “Route Permit No. 211” to NSP, granting authority to build and operate the line, substation, and associated facilities.
“The proposed transmission facility corridor and route will minimize adverse human and environmental impact while ensuring continuing system reliability and integrity and ensuring that energy needs are met and fulfilled in an orderly and timely fashion,” the commission said. “The proposed project is compatible with the environmental preservation and the efficient use of resources.”
As noted in the order, NSP in March filed consolidated applications for a certificate of corridor compatibility and route permit for the construction of about 20.5 miles of 230-kV transmission line including the new Magic City substation and associated facilities to be built from the proposed Magic City substation in Ward County near the City of Minot to the existing McHenry substation in McHenry County near the City of Velva.
NSP intends to begin construction of the Minot Project this fall, provided all pre-construction permits and approvals are obtained. The commission also said that NSP anticipates that construction of the Minot Project will be complete by the end of 2018, with the removal of the existing 115-kV transmission line in the spring of 2019. NSP expects to place the new 230-kV transmission line and Magic City substation in service by the end of 2018, the commission said.
The commission noted that it issued in January a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Minot Project, which is needed to meet the growing demand for electricity in the Minot area and to reinforce the reliability of the region’s electric transmission system.
NSP currently serves its entire load for the City of Minot from the Souris substation via two 115-kV transmission lines that were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Those lines, the commission added, are reaching capacity and experience low voltage conditions when certain elements of the system are out of service. In addition, the McHenry substation 230/115-kV transformer also experiences overloads when certain elements of the transmission system are out of service.
The Joint Minot Load Serving Study and Addendum concluded that the Minot Project is the most effective solution to address the near-term voltage issues and the long-term capacity issues in the Minot area, the commission added.
The new 230-kV transmission line and new Magic City substation will be built, owned, and maintained by NSP, the commission said, noting that the McHenry substation is owned by Great River Energy (GRE) and modifications to that substation to accommodate the new 230-kV line will be built and owned by GRE.
NSP proposed a corridor of 300 feet wide for the Minot Project, and selected the proposed route based on a number of factors including input from landowners as well as federal, state and local agencies, the commission said. The proposed route is located within the proposed corridor and extends southeast from the proposed Magic City substation along the existing Souris-McHenry 115-kV line to the McHenry substation. The proposed route deviates from the existing 115-kV line route in North Prairie Township in Ward County, the commission said, adding that in and around that township, the proposed route diverges south and then east from the existing 115-kV transmission line route for about 4.2 miles to follow section and half-section lines before rejoining the existing 115-kV transmission line route to the McHenry substation.
The new 230-kV transmission line will be built on single pole, double circuit, weathering steel structures. The typical height of the single pole structures will range from 85 feet to 130 feet, depending on span length and topography, the commission added. Once the new 230/115-kV line has been built, the existing 115-kV line and wooden H-frame structures will be removed.
The new 230/115-kV line from the McHenry substation will terminate at the proposed Magic City substation, the commission added, noting that NSP has acquired 50 acres for the substation to accommodate transmission line interconnections and possible future expansion. A single 115-kV line will exit the Magic City substation and connect the 115-kV line to the existing Souris-McHenry 115-kV transmission line, which serves the Souris substation.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $50.5m, the commission added.
Among other things, the commission said that NSP has performed a Class III Cultural Resource Inventory (pedestrian survey) of the project corridor, and the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office has concurred with the survey’s recommended finding of “No Historic Properties Affected.”
Also, the commission noted that there are six residences within 500 feet of the centerline of the proposed route. The owners of those residences have consented to the location of the Minot Project within 500 feet of their residences and have executed a waiver of that routing “Avoidance Area” criteria. The commission added that there are no businesses or schools within 500 feet of the proposed route.
The commission noted that all trees and tall shrubs will be cut and removed from the right of way (ROW) unless future growth is not anticipated to interfere with the operation or maintenance of the line. A tree inventory will be completed for all wooded areas that are cleared and an appropriate mitigation plan will be prepared and filed for commission approval, the commission said, adding that NSP will ensure that affected landowners are aware of tree clearing across the width of the ROW. The typical ROW width that will be used during construction and maintained during the life of the project is 125 feet, the commission noted.