Transforming the energy grid was a key theme when CapX2020 partners began studying improvements needed in the region’s transmission system more than a decade ago. That transformation was made a reality with the recent completion and energizing of the Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse 345/161-kilovolt transmission lines, a new 156-mile link that was celebrated by project partners, local officials and renewable energy advocates this Monday.
CapX2020 has now invested $1.85 billion in completing four high voltage transmission line projects totaling nearly 725 miles across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. A fifth project in eastern South Dakota is scheduled for completion in 2017. The transmission infrastructure projects are addressing local reliability needs and opening up new paths for solar and wind energy across the upper Midwest, helping to meet state renewable energy standards, including Minnesota’s 25 percent by 2025 mandate (30 percent by 2020 for Xcel Energy).
“The electric grid is more important than ever as society goes through a resource evolution,” said Teresa Mogensen, Xcel Energy Senior Vice President of Transmission. “With increasing proportions of variable generation sources like wind and solar reshaping the resource profile, the transmission system is at the center of making it all work together.”
“We’re pleased the line is complete and grateful to our project partners,” said Dave Geschwind, SMMPA Executive Director & CEO. “Since the Minnesota portion of the project is double-circuit capable, this investment in reliability and greater access to renewable energy will benefit our members far into the future.”
The final phase of the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project was energized on September 16, 2016. The transmission line runs between the Hampton substation near Hampton, Minn., the North Rochester substation north of Pine Island, Minn., and the Briggs Road Substation north of La Crosse, Wis. and includes three new substations.
The CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse Project is jointly owned by Xcel Energy, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Rochester Public Utilities and WPPI Energy.
At the dedication event Xcel Energy officials reviewed new drone technology that is being tested to inspect transmission lines and other utility infrastructure. Unmanned aerial systems (or drones) have the potential to help utilities more efficiently inspect transmission lines. A team from Flot Systems presented the technology today, including the high-definition views the systems can provide.