From the STrib’s Shortcuts:

Give ’em a break

“This bill is based on the premise that we believe in private free-market capitalism to develop the resources of this land in a cost-efficient fashion.”

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, describing Congress’ new energy bill, which gives $14.5 billion in new subsidies and tax breaks to the oil, gas and nuclear industries.


In Minnesota we have our own version of “giving them a break.” Minnesota invested heavily in NEW coal in last session’s Omnibus Transmission Bill from Hell. As a utility rep said, “You let us build transmission and we’ll build coal, if you don’t, we’ll build distributed generation.” The horse is out of the barn, and here we go with transmission to support coal! Three groups of projects coming soon to a field and town and backyard near you.

Great River Energy, on behalf of the CapX Utilities sent a missive announcing a slight change in plans, following on the heels of their statewide transmission meetings, a “by the way” notice that the utilities are going forward with BIG transmission plans in Minnesota that were NOT discussed at the meetings. Here’s the notice: Download file I’ll just describe them briefly, so you get the large picture.

Here’s the one by me — from Prairie Island to Rochester to LaCrosse, a big new 345kV line, it’s the red dotted line in Minnesota, and blue dotted line in Wisconsin, which I’ve learned they did talk about specifically at the part of the meeting I missed because I’m the eternally late Overland:

Prairie Island - Roch - LaX.jpg

This line is claimed to have grown from a Rochester Public Utilities study to cover provision of electricity to Rochester, but it really goes back to the 1998 WRAO report, it’s WRAO Option 2. I have the DRAFT study from Rochester Public Utilities, email me if you want a copy, it’s too big to upload. I’ve found a few things I need to talk to them about, a lot more on that later, but essentially, costs are grossly understated, need is grossly overstated, and the report from a Rochester perspective is a clear demonstration of the need for distributed generation. Oh, well… I’ve been following this study at the MAPP meetings for a while now, and there, and at the Rochester Minnsota Transmission Owners meeting about the Biennial Report, Southeastern Zone they did announce it’s a probable line, that’s after denying it at the MAPP meetings I’d attended. Great, here we go. That’s also what was said about Dairyland’s big coal plant in Adams, so I guess we ought to expect that too, even though it’s not listed on their “Power Supply Updates” page.

… sigh… here’s another one, or two, or three, the red dotted lines, part of the “It’s for Wind!” lie (check Transmission for Dummies #1, 2 – It’s not for Wind!, and 3) and on this map, there’s Big Stone at the western end of the lie, er… line. The divide it into three categories, called “Big Stone II Transmission,” “Buffalo Ridge Outlet” and “Buffalo Ridge — Metro 345kV. Here’s the map:

SW MN It's not for Wind map.jpg

This is what they say about Big Stone’s 600MW coal upgrade, no suprise for anyone who’s paying attention, but for those who believe the party line, it may be a shock:

The first element to be presented for certificate of need approvals will be transmission facilities associated with the Big Stone generation project. While the Big Stone II partners include some non-CapX members, those of us responsible for transmission associated with Big Stone II have been working closely with the rest of the CapX members and with MISO. As was outlined in the Big Stone notice plan, MISO interconnection studies show that a second unit at Big Stone requires a minimum of two 230kV interconnection lines. The Big Stone partners now intend to propose constructing the line connecting Big Stone and Granite Falls to 345kV standards to better meet and be integrated with CapX, state, and regional objectives. As a result, the Big Stone transmission project, in addition to providing interconnection facilities for a second unit at Big Stone, is now being planned as the first phase of a 345kV line between southwestern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area. The Big Stone transmission partners expect to file a certificate of need for these facilities in September.

And last but not least… the “Northwest” project, a misnomer because this first one looks like it ties into Mesaba, which is planned for just a titch north of Bovey, east of Grand Rapids, and the lines there tie into the Arrowhead substation:

Northwest part 1 Grand Rapids.jpg

And the big honkin’ 345kV line from Fargo to the Metro that will aptly handle that anticipated Coal Creek upgrade:

Northwest part 2 Fargo to Metro.jpg

As we say in transmission, “It’s all connected!”

And as they say in transmission, “You let us build transmission and we’ll build coal, if you don’t, we’ll build distributed generation.”

Take out your WRAO reports, pps. 8, 12, Appendix C-1 p. 1-10, and note that they want to build WRAO Option 2. Hmmm… wasn’t Arrowhead the be all and end all of transmission? But then the’ve permitted parts of WRAO Option 9 and Chisago is WRAO Option 5 and …

Let’s look at what WRAO recommended (p. 12):

Plan 1 (Salem – Fitchburg) – they may do 2 and from LaCrosse to Salem, so…
Plan 2 (Prairie Island-Roch-LaCrosse – to Columbia or W.Middleton) – application pending
Plan 3 (Arrowhead) permitted
Plan 5 (Chisago Weston 345kV) pending at 115/161kV with Arrowhead level capacity
Plan 9 (Lakefield-Columbia) parts to Lakefield are permitted, other parts pending
Plan 10 (King-Weston 345kV) rate increase docket in WI says King-Arpin to be upgraded

WRAO developed many options, recommended that just one, the Arrowhead line, was necessary because it was the be all and end all of transmission, yet here we are with each option considered going forward, some as planned, some morphed, but all of them now planned or permitted.

Yup, it’s all connected. Here we go, massive transmission infrastructure for Minnesota, coming soon to a community near you — or even your own back yard.

One Response to “Transmission Projects roaring through Minnesota”

  1. Bruce Morlan Says:

    You quoted someone as “You let us build transmission and we’ll build coal, if you don’t, we’ll build distributed generation.” My simple question, which is easier to keep clean and modern, a few large plants (large implying economies of scale) near the fuel or a lot of small plants that might fold the first time you say “update or else”. Of course, “update-or-else” as a political statement seems to fail anyway, in part because pols always fold to special interests (c onsumer-based and utility-based) when it comes to painful and costly decisions. Why doesn’t Northfield require that any new subdivision provide for at least some of its power needs locally (distributed generation)? In the answer to that lies the need for transmission lines, methinks.

Leave a Reply