Minnesota administrative law judges (ALJs) have recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approve the Big Stone participants’ application for a transmission certificate of need and routing permit. The certificate of need is necessary for the participants to construct new and upgraded transmission facilities in Minnesota. The transmission facilities will help deliver power from the planned Big Stone II power plant and the existing Big Stone Unit No. 1.
The project will need to build or upgrade approximately 140 miles of transmission line, with about 110 miles in Minnesota and the remainder in South Dakota. Six new or upgraded substations will also be needed. The Big Stone transmission facilities, along with other planned transmission projects, will also help accommodate additional renewable energy development in western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas.
In making the positive recommendation, the ALJs agreed with the participants’ load forecasts and acknowledged that future electric load could not be fully satisfied by conservation measures and renewable energy. The ALJs also stated that Big Stone II is the participants’ least-cost option for baseload electricity.
The ALJs’ recommendation follows testimony of some 50 witnesses during the December 2006 certificate of need hearings in St. Paul. Witnesses on all sides of the issue participated.
The recommendation is not binding on the PUC. However, the Big Stone II participants feel it will be given careful consideration because it is the most extensive review of the project by any Minnesota agency.