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Powering through the county

By Staff | Jun 18, 2017

There has been noticeable changes near Blue Earth and?Winnebago recently as a high-voltage electrical transmission line has been going up. While work continues on this project, ITC Midwest is partnering with Xcel Energy to build another power line which will begin at the Huntley substation and go north.

While work continues on a high-voltage electrical transmission line near Blue Earth and Winnebago, plans are just starting up on another one to be built in the area.

ITC Midwest is constructing a 345 kilovolt (kV) line along I-90 from the west to the Huntley Substation located just south of Winnebago.

From the Huntley Substation, the line turns south, runs just west of Blue Earth, and heads into Iowa.

That project is still under construction, and in fact, the towers are going up near Blue Earth and power lines will be installed in the next few weeks.

Now, ITC is partnering with Xcel Energy to build another 345 kV line from the Huntley Substation which will head north 40-50 miles and connect up with Xcel Energy’s Wilmarth Substation, north of Mankato.

A lot of work has been going into the power lines near Blue Earth and Winnebago, One of the workers is pictured above.

Right now there are five possible routes from Huntley to the Wilmarth Substation, with some possible variations to all five routes.

A map of the five routes was in a large advertisement on page 7 of last week’s Faribault County Register.

All five routes start in Faribault County, ranging from the western border with Martin County to the most eastern one which would run near Delavan and Minnesota Lake.

Xcel Energy and ITC Midwest are hosting four open houses this week to provide landowners and local communities an opportunity to learn more about the proposed Huntley-Wilmarth transmission line and provide an opportunity for feedback about these route options.

On Tuesday, June 20, two open houses will be held at the Maple River High School cafeteria in Mapleton. One will be from 1-3 p.m. and the other one will be from 5-8 p.m.

Then on Wednesday, June 21, two more will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott event center in Mankato. One will be from noon to 2 p.m. and the other one from 5-8 p.m.

The two companies plan to narrow the five route options down to two before submitting them to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The project is expected to be online in 2021, with construction in 2020, if approved by the PUC.

There are two reasons this new line to Mankato is needed, says Tim Carlsgaard, communications manager for Xcel.

“There are two lines out of the Wilmarth Substation now, but one is 40 years old and the other one is 61 years old,” Carlsgaard says. “If one fails we don’t have a backup.”

The other reason for the new line, he adds, is congestion.

“Both those two lines are running full most of the time,” Carlsgaard explains. “It is like a congested highway. Eight years ago it was determined that there was congestion on this grid. Now it is to a point something must be done.”

Relieving the congestion and adding new suppliers of wind and solar will help lower electrical costs to consumers as well, he says, which is one more benefit to the new line.

Since it takes five to seven years from the time a line is determined to be needed to the time it goes online, planning ahead is very necessary Carlsgaard points out.

After these open houses with the public, ITC and Xcel plan to submit a certificate of need to the PUC this fall.

If approved, they will apply for a route permit followed by more public hearings with an administrative law judge in charge. It takes nine to 18 months to go through all the review process as they are very thorough.

People with questions or comments about the new line are urged to attend one of the four open houses this week. According to Carlsgaard, they will provide an opportunity for residents to learn more about the project, view potential route maps, ask questions and provide feedback.