The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission grants the application of Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC, (Blazing Star 2) for a route permit for the Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 115-kV Transmission Line Project – referred to as the project – in Lincoln County, according to a Jan. 3 “proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law” filing.
As noted in the filing, Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Geronimo, which is a renewable energy company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. Geronimo developed the Blazing Star Wind Farm, which is located adjacent to the Blazing Star 2 Wind Project to the north and west; received a certificate of need and site permit from the commission; and has been transferred to Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) to build, own, and operate.
The filing added that Blazing Star 2 is developing the project and the up-to-200-MW Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, which would be served by the project. The Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 is part of Xcel’s 1,550-MW wind generation portfolio that was approved by the commission in 2017, and is one of the four projects that Xcel intends to build, own, and operate. The filing also noted that under the purchase and sale agreement approved by the commission, the ownership interests in Blazing Star Wind Farm 2, LLC, will be transferred to Xcel prior to the start of construction.
The project is needed to interconnect the up-to-200-MW Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 Large Wind Energy Conversion System (LWECS) Project to the Brookings to Hampton 345-kV Multi-Value Project line so that the energy from the wind farm can be brought to market, the filing noted. The commission issued a site permit for the Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 last November.
The filing also said that the project consists of a new approximately 7.5-mile, 115-kV transmission line and a Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 345-kV/115-kV step-up substation – referred to as the collector substation – proposed to be co-located with the collector substation for the Blazing Star Wind Farm. The collector substation is proposed to be sited in an open area adjacent to the CapX 2020 Brookings County to Hampton 345-kV line northeast of the intersection of 150th Avenue and 330th Street, the filing noted.
The proposed project would extend from the new Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 Project substation located in Section 2 of Shaokatan Township in Lincoln County, and would generally follow property lines, as well as township and county road rights of way (ROWs), as it travels north to the proposed Collector substation in Section 2 of Hendricks Township in Lincoln County.
The filing added that the proposed transmission line and the collector substation would traverse 15 sections in Hendricks and Shakotan townships. Blazing Star 2’s 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, the filing noted.
The new single-circuit line originates at the project substation and heads north along existing property lines for two miles until 290th Street where it turns east along 290th Street for one-half mile to 160th Avenue, where the line turns north, the filing said. 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, the filing noted. The line continues west on 320th Street for one mile and then goes north along 150th Avenue for one mile, the filing said, adding that at the intersection of 150th Avenue and 330th Street, the line turns east and enters the collector substation.
The proposed route follows existing road ROW along about 75% of the length, and all private ROW has been acquired, the filing noted.
No residences would be displaced by the project, the filing said, adding that aesthetic impacts have been minimized to the extent possible in design of the project, consistent with conditions included in the commission’s generic route permit.
In addition, the filing said, the project has been designed and routed to avoid direct impacts to recreational resources; since all project facilities would be located on private lands, there would be no direct impacts to public recreational facilities. Also, the filing said that Blazing Star 2 has indicated that it will coordinate with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the Office of the State Archaeologist to conduct an archaeological inventory of the proposed route.
Impacts to rare and unique resources are not expected because habitat is not present and/or surveys have confirmed absence, the filing said, adding that if impacts to threatened or endangered species are identified, Blazing Star 2 would work with regulatory agencies to identify appropriate avoidance, minimization, and mitigative measures.
The evidence in the record demonstrates that the proposed route is the best route for the project, and that the general route permit conditions are appropriate for the project, the filing said. Among other things, the filing said that a special route permit condition requiring Blazing Star 2 to install swan flight diverters spaced about every 20 feet on the portion of the proposed route that parallels the Legacy Wildlife Management Area is appropriate for the project.
The filing noted that Blazing Star 2 plans to begin construction of the project in 2Q19, and anticipates that construction would not take more than two months to complete.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $5.5m – that is, about $3.5m for the transmission line and about $2m for the proposed collector substation, as well as other facilities, the filing said.
Annual operation and maintenance costs for 115-kV transmission lines in the Upper Midwest are typically $300 to $600 per mile of transmission ROW, the filing said.