CapX 2020 Utilities Plan New Transmission Lines

The CapX 2020 utilities-an alliance of electric cooperatives, municipals and investor-owned utilities-took the first step in the regulatory process for three new 345-kV transmission lines this summer. A preliminary filing for one of the three lines, which lays out plans for notifying local governments, landowners and residents, was made with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

“CapX 2020 is a collaborative effort that aims to support customers’ growing demand for electricity by upgrading and expanding the backbone transmission system in Minnesota and neighboring states,” said Terry Grove of Great River Energy, a co-leader of the CapX 2020 effort. CapX 2020 is short for Capacity Expansion needed by 2020.

The approximate lengths and general locations of the proposed lines are as follows:

  • A 200-mile, 345-kV line between Brookings, S.D., and the southeast Twin Cities, plus a related 30-mile, 345-kV line between Marshall, Minn., and Granite Falls, Minn.;
  • A 200-mile, 345-kV line between Fargo, N.D., and the St. Cloud/Monticello, Minn., area;
  • A 150-mile, 345-kV line between the southeast Twin Cities, Rochester, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis.

Great River Energy filed a proposed public notice plan for the CapX Brookings, S.D.-southeast Twin Cities transmission line with the Minnesota commission. Xcel Energy plans to file similar notice plans for the CapX Twin Cities-Rochester-La Crosse line and the CapX Fargo-St. Cloud/Monticello area line.

While Great River Energy and Xcel Energy are taking the lead on the three 345-kV lines, other utilities also will be involved in permitting, building and financing them. A fourth line-a 230-kV, 70-mile line in the Bemidji area of north central Minnesota-is also among the CapX 2020 Group 1 projects.

The first four projects represent a combined investment of approximately $1.3 billion. Xcel Energy, Great River Energy and Otter Tail Power Company are committed to financing a majority of the cost. The balance will be covered by other project participants in various amounts. Group 2 and Group 3 project phases are planned through 2020.

“These transmission capacity upgrades are needed to deliver new electricity generation to support economic, job and population growth in the future,” Grove said. “Additionally, key sections of the proposed lines are needed to deliver the rapidly expanding wind energy from this region to our customers.”

The utilities expect to file a single request for a Certificate of Need for the three 345-kV lines and associated system interconnections with the Minnesota commission late this year. Following a rigorous public process, the commission is expected to decide on the need for the lines sometime in 2008. If the commission certifies need, it then will determine routes for the new lines in subsequent separate proceedings. As soon as routing decisions are complete in 2009 or 2010, construction will begin, and the lines are expected to be completed three or four years later.

“We are just beginning a lengthy journey and are committed to working with landowners, local officials and other interested parties at every step of the process,” said Laura McCarten of Xcel Energy, a co-leader of the CapX 2020 effort.

After Minnesota commission approval of the plans, Great River Energy and Xcel Energy will mail letters to potentially affected people in each of the broadly defined transmission line corridors to let them know how they can learn more and get involved in the state’s decision-making process, McCarten said.

“Public meetings will be held in the potentially affected communities to describe the projects and answer questions,” she said. “We will post information about the projects and updates on the CapX 2020 Web site at, and we will begin building mailing lists to keep people informed as the long regulatory process unfolds.”

Portions of the lines also will require approvals by federal officials and by regulators in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Along with Great River Energy, Elk River, Minn.; Otter Tail Power Company, Fergus Falls, Minn.; and Xcel Energy, Minneapolis, utilities or groups that expect to participate in one or more of the CapX 2020 projects are: Dairyland Power Cooperative, La Crosse, Wis.; Midwest Municipal Transmission Group, Des Moines, Iowa; Minnesota Power, Duluth, Minn.; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks, N.D.; Missouri River Energy Services, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Rochester Public Utilities, Rochester, Minn.; Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Rochester, Minn., and Wisconsin Public Power Inc., Sun Prairie, Wis.

The Minnesota Legislature adopted a new law in 2005 that encourages investment in strengthening power delivery systems by, among other things, allowing investor-owned utilities to recover costs as lines are being built.

NERC Gets FERC Nod as U.S. ERO

The creation of an independent, international electric reliability organization (ERO) moved a step closer to completion in July when the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the North American Electric Reliability Council’s (NERC) application to become the ERO for the United States. As the ERO, NERC will have legal authority to enforce reliability standards on all owners, operators, and users of the bulk power system, rather than relying on voluntary compliance.

NERC is working to gain similar recognition by governmental authorities in Canada, including eight provinces and the National Energy Board, before the end of this year, and will seek recognition in Mexico once the necessary legislation is adopted there.

“We appreciate the faith and trust that the U.S. Congress, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and governmental authorities in Canada have in NERC,” said NERC chairman Richard Drouin. “Our mission-to improve the reliability and security of the bulk power system in the United States and Canada-will not change, but our ability to achieve that mission will increase greatly with the new authority to enforce compliance with industry reliability standards.”

The creation of an ERO is authorized under the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was triggered in part by concerns generated by the August 2003 blackout that affected 40 million people in the Midwestern and northeastern United States and 10 million people in eastern Canada.

NERC’s application explains how NERC meets all statutory and regulatory requirements set forth for the ERO in the Energy Policy Act, cites NERC’s qualifications to be a strong and effective ERO, and provides detailed plans for the ERO’s corporate structure, governance, bylaws, and procedures. It clearly defines the authorities and responsibilities of the ERO, the eight regional reliability councils, and the bulk power system owners, operators, and users that fall under the ERO’s jurisdiction.

The Commission’s approval included a number of conditions NERC will address in the next few months. As the ERO, NERC will be subject to audit by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and governmental authorities in Canada.

HTS Cable at Work in Albany

This summer, when the demand for electricity to run pool pumps, fans and air conditioners is at its peak, power customers in Albany, N.Y., will get some extra capacity thanks to new technology. A system that eliminates the resistance that causes power losses in traditional copper cables has begun operating, providing enough power for more than 70,000 area households.

The power boost is the result of a multi-year project led by one of the world’s largest industrial gases suppliers, BOC, along with Schenectady, N.Y.-based SuperPower, Inc., a subsidiary of Intermagnetics General Corp. and Osaka, Japan-based Sumitomo Electric Industries. Together, the companies have commissioned an in-grid, high temperature superconductivity (HTS) cable project.

Between electric utility National Grid’s Riverside and Menands substations in Albany and directly below Interstate 90, superconducting wire is wrapped to form 350 meters of cable. To achieve superconductivity, or zero resistance, the wire and cables are cooled inside a vacuum jacket containing liquid nitrogen, pumped and cooled continuously by an innovative cryogenic system designed by BOC.

“A growing economy depends on reliable and efficient electricity delivery,” said Ed Garcia, vice president, PGS Ventures, BOC. “One HTS cable can deliver three to five times more power than a conventional cable. This means utilities can accommodate demand increases without having to add multiple distribution lines. With the U.S. Department of Energy projecting world electricity demand to grow at an average rate of 2.6 percent per year, this startup is particularly timely as we work to develop new solutions for our aging energy infrastructure.”

Work on the $26 million HTS cable project began nearly three years ago. To ensure reliability, BOC is monitoring the HTS cable system from its Remote Operating Center in Bethlehem, Pa. Real-time indicators at the center allow operators to make necessary adjustments to the cryogenic system to keep the cable system running.

Project funding was provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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