Minnesota Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff on April 24 recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission accept as substantially complete the April 11 route permit application filed by Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC regarding a 115-kV transmission line, and that the commission take no action on an advisory task force.
As noted by staff, Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC is seeking approval to build the approximately 7.5-mile, high-voltage transmission line (HVTL) to interconnect the proposed Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 to the Brookings to Hampton 345-kV Multi-Value Project line.
The 115-kV line would interconnect the proposed Blazing Star 2 Wind Farm to the electrical grid, staff said, adding that the proposed route would extend from the new Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 Project substation, located in Section 2 of Shaokatan Township in Lincoln County to the proposed collector substation in Section 2 of Hendricks Township in Lincoln County.
As proposed, the new single-circuit line originates at the Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 Project substation and heads north along property lines for two miles until 290th Street, staff said. At 290th Street, the proposed line heads east for one-half mile to 160th Avenue, where it turns north, staff noted. The line follows 160th Avenue for two miles where 160th Avenue then turns into Lincoln County Highway 4, at which point the line crosses Lincoln County Highway 17, and follows Highway 4 for one mile north, and then turns west along 320th Street, staff said. The line then continues west on 320th Street for one mile, and then goes north along 150th Avenue for one mile, staff said, adding that at the intersection of 150th Avenue and 330th Street, the line turns east and enters the collector substation.
For most of the proposed route, Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC requests a route width of 400 feet, staff said, noting that in Sections 13, 14, 23, and 24 of Hendricks Township, at the intersection of Lincoln County Highways 4 and 17, Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC requests a 600-foot route width to allow additional flexibility to work around environmental features, and a 69-kV line crossing. In Sections 23 and 24 of Hendricks Township, near the intersection of 160th Avenue and 300th Street, Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC requests an 800-foot route width to allow flexibility to work around a natural gas pipeline crossing, staff said. Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC is also requesting a wider route width at both ends of the line to allow for flexibility in final design of the collector substation and line, staff said, noting that Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC requests 850 feet at the project substation and 1,550 feet at the collector substation. Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC indicates an 80-foot right of way (ROW) is necessary for the project, staff said. Structures would generally be 65 feet to 70 feet tall, staff said.
Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC anticipates construction would begin in 2Q19, and is not anticipated to take more than two months to complete, staff said, adding that the proposed project is expected to cost about $5.5m.
While a certificate of need is not required, the proposed project does require a route permit from the commission, staff noted.
The commission may appoint an advisory task force to aid in the environmental review process, but it is not required to appoint said task force, staff said. Since the project would operate at a voltage between 100 kV and 200 kV, it qualifies for the alternative permitting process, which requires completion of an environmental assessment (EA) that is prepared by EERA staff, staff said.
Staff noted that Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC’s application would benefit from further discussion on the procedures and practices proposed to acquire project ROW and certain state permits. Staff recommended that the commission accept the application, but require Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC to provide additional information prior to a scoping meeting. Upon acceptance of the application, EERA would begin the environmental review process, staff said.
The Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 project that the line would serve has received moderate public interest, staff said, adding that the proposed route parallels existing road ROW along approximately 75% of its length and is proposed to be routed on property where Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC has acquired property rights or is public ROW, which is likely to minimize controversy.
Potential impacts to sensitive natural resources are anticipated to be minimal, and that is due in large part to the majority of the proposed route being located on agricultural lands, staff said. Impacts to wetlands and waters can be reduced or avoided by spanning those resources, staff said, adding that while the proposed project crosses one site of moderate biodiversity significance and two sites ranked below the biodiversity significance threshold, impacts can likely be avoided through alignment on the opposite side of the roadway or minimized by spanning sites.
Among other things, staff said that it does not anticipate that an advisory task force would enhance the environmental review process – that is, help in selecting alternative route or route segments, or provide increased opportunities for public involvement. As such, staff said that it believes that an advisory task force is not necessary in this case.