November 30, 2017 Read More →

New 800-Mile Midwestern Power Line Expands U.S. Wind Market

Midwest Energy News:

Finished in late September after more than a decade of planning and construction, the 800-mile-long CapX2020 transmission project has prompted more than 3,600 megawatts of clean energy project proposals, according to Xcel Energy.

While not all the proposals are likely to be approved by regulators, the flood of applications represents the tangible impact of CapX2020 in moving electrons from windier parts of the Midwest to dense population centers to the east.

“There’s a high preponderance of generators in the interconnection queues which are wind developers, with some solar, too,” said Teresa Mogensen, senior vice president for transmission at Xcel Energy, the utility which, along with Great River Energy, led the development.

A recently completed 70-mile stretch of CapX in South Dakota has resulted in proposals for nine wind projects and one natural gas plant together totaling more than 2,000 MW. One of those is the largest wind project in South Dakota’s history, Xcel Energy’s 600 MW Crown Ridge.

Developers have submitted plans for 10 wind projects totaling 1,900 MW on another segment from Brookings, South Dakota to Hampton, Minnesota. More projects are expected to come from North Dakota, too.

The high level of interest does not surprise Wind on The Wires executive director Beth Soholt, an early supporter of CapX.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “It’s created a road to market for wind, allowed benefits to accrue to communities where wind can be developed.”

The line allows greater flexibility to bring large volumes of wind energy onto the grid when it is available, a key to incorporating more renewable energy into the marketplace, she added.

If the 3,600 MW of wind projects currently proposed get built, royalty payments to landowners will top $15 million annually, added Xcel Energy’s Tim Carlsgaard.

The more than $2 billion project stands as one of the largest investments in energy infrastructure in Minnesota history, with 5,000 transmission structures on the six sections of the project.

What started out as a project to improve the grid’s reliability and improve the Upper Midwest’s economic stability has created a clean energy superhighway, Mogensen said.

It was one of the first “multi-value projects,” or MVPs, to receive approval from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO. That designation allowed some of the costs of several CapX lines to be spread among MISO’s footprint, which extends throughout the Midwest, Manitoba, and parts of the South. MVPs in other states have similarly been credited for facilitating new wind development.

“By adding these CapX lines we’ve multiplied the network capacity of what used to be there both because we have more lines and higher capacity,” Mogensen said. “It’s like putting in a highway where before you just had local roads. You can carry a lot more traffic a lot farther and a lot faster on that freeway structure … we can move a lot more power from west to east because of that.”

As outlined in a University of Minnesota report sponsored by CapX and written by researchers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the transmission project was jumpstarted by federal and state legislation.

In 1999 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order calling for states to create regional transmission plans.

Second, new renewable energy projects began to come online, especially wind, to meet renewable portfolio standards of Minnesota and other Midwest states.

Third, there was a sense among utility executives that the transmission grid, which had not been improved since the 1970s, was due for an expansion.

More: Utilities say CapX2020 transmission project prompting wind energy growth

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