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Regulators approve most of eastern ND wind power line  

North Dakota regulators approved most of the route for a 61-mile power line to carry electricity from two large wind farms, overriding a township’s request to change how some of the project should be built.

The board of Reed Township, on the northern outskirts of Riverside, West Fargo and Fargo in Cass County, had asked that Minnkota Power Cooperative be ordered to string part of the 230-kilovolt line and an existing 345-kilovolt line on the same support structure. The practice is called “double-circuiting.”

Minnkota Power already plans to put the two power lines on the same towers when the project crosses the Sheyenne River north of West Fargo, state Public Service Commission filings say. The township board asked that the power lines share towers for three-quarters of a mile west of the river crossing.

The Public Service Commission said the request came from a nearby landowner, who believed that building new towers for the line on her property would reduce its value and could disturb the horses that she raises.

Minnkota resisted the request, saying it could mean another $27 million in expenses for new construction materials and replacement energy while the new power line is installed this summer.

Minnkota expects to spend $36 million on the entire 61-mile stretch of line, which is to run from Pillsbury, in northern Barnes County, to an electric substation near Fargo.

North Dakota law gives the commission power to override local power line route decisions. Commissioners Tony Clark and Kevin Cramer voted on Friday to support Minnkota’s preferred construction plan, while Commission President Susan Wefald backed the township’s request.

“They’re requiring just three-quarters of a mile of this whole 60-mile route to be double-circuited, and they have good reasons for doing this,” Wefald said.

Wefald said she believed Minnkota’s added cost estimate was wildly exaggerated. Clark and Cramer acknowledged it could be too high, but said the expense for double-circuiting the line for an extra three-quarters of a mile could be significant.

“If you have particular townships, or local zoning boards, that make a decision that causes a line to be constructed in a vastly different manner than every other township along the line, this adds cost,” Clark said. “And it’s costs that are ultimately borne by ratepayers.”

Minnkota is building the new power line to carry electricity from two planned wind farms. The commission has already approved the Barnes County site for one of the projects, a 200-megawatt development north of Valley City. The second, a 150-megawatt project, is being planned in Griggs and Steele counties to the north.

The existing 345-kilovolt line carries electricity from the Coyote power station, a 414-megawatt, coal-fueled plant two miles south of Beulah. Otter Tail Power Co., of Fergus Falls, Minn., operates the plant, which it owns with three other utilities.

If the two power lines are located on the same support towers, the Coyote plant must be shut down while construction work is done. Clark and Cramer said buying replacement power on the wholesale market could be more costly if the commission required another three-quarters of a mile of power lines to be hung from the same towers.

State regulators still have work to do on siting the new power line. The commission’s Friday route order did not include a short stretch in Rush River township in Cass County, where Minnkota, prodded by nearby landowners, has proposed to change its original route.

The commission is holding a July 8 hearing in Bismarck on the proposed route change.

By Dale Wetzel
Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

grandforksherald.com

7 June 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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