Xcel Energy applied for a Certificate of Need to build a new double-circuit 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to link at least 2,000 MW of new renewable energy to the grid — enough to power more than 1 million homes per year.
The proposed Minnesota Energy Connection transmission line will connect to new low-cost wind and solar energy that will replace the electricity currently generated at the Sherco power plant near Becker, reusing the plant’s existing grid connections. The transmission project will also make progress for Minnesota’s renewable energy goals.
The Department of Energy’s recent needs study found that many regions of the U.S., including the Midwest, need more interconnection capacity with neighboring regions. Read T&D World analysis of that report here.
“Expanding our transmission infrastructure will pave the way for us to further reduce carbon emissions while delivering reliable and affordable electricity for our customers,” said Michael Lamb, Xcel Energy’s senior vice president, Transmission. “The Minnesota Energy Connection project will bring low-cost, renewable energy to millions of homes and businesses while reusing the important grid connections in central Minnesota that serve customers throughout the region.”
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will now review Xcel Energy’s proposal. The review process generally takes about one year and includes opportunities for input from customers, landowners and other key stakeholders.
While the certification process proceeds, Xcel Energy will also be working with local officials and landowners to identify potential route options for the project, which is expected to be between 160 and 180 miles long. Recently, project leaders held several public open houses in communities located along these route options to introduce the project and ask for feedback on how those options may affect land use issues in the area. The route options generally follow existing corridors, such as roads and existing transmission lines, when possible and aim to minimize impacts to land use, agricultural operations, natural resources, cultural and historical sites, and recreational areas.
Xcel Energy expects to file a Route Permit application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in the fall of 2023, with a decision expected on the final route in late 2024. If both the Certificate of Need and Route Permit applications are approved, construction could begin in late 2025 and complete in 2028. The project and associated facilities, including technology to maintain voltage stability and reliability, are expected to represent an investment of over $1 billion in valuable infrastructure for the state and region, dependent on the final configuration and route selected, including voltage support technologies.