Opinion pieces on CapX 2020

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on December 11, 2007 @ 5:50 am

Fargo Forum printed my editorial:

Don’t be fooled: It’s about coal plants

CapX 2020 has proposed high-voltage transmission lines through Minnesota – from the coal fields of the Dakotas to Wisconsin and points east. The cost is more than $1.3 billion and ratepayers will pay. More than 70,000 Minnesota landowners got notices. Don’t be fooled by claims that it’s for wind, or that these lines are needed – it’s about transmission capacity for coal plants.

The Department of Commerce is hosting meetings for public input on the scope of the Environmental Report. Raise your concerns Monday, Dec. 10, from noon to 2 p.m. at Courtyard by Marriot in Moorhead, and from 6 to 8 p.m. at Best Western Bigwood Events Center in Fergus Falls.

As I’ve seen in Mesaba IGCC and Chisago transmission dockets, Commerce is not representing the public interest and tries to shut the public and local governments out. It’s important that you speak out, submit written comments, and Intervene in the Certificate of Need docket.

How does CapX substantiate its claim that these lines are needed? Will it guarantee these lines aren’t for coal? Who pays for power lines? Is there a market for this electricity? What impact do power lines have on property use and value? What’s the impact on my family’s health? Who decides the route?

The Certificate of Need proceeding determines whether the lines are needed, whether they will be built. Come to the meetings, ask questions, and participate now, when it makes a difference!

And look what the Grand Forks Herald editors had to say:

Our view:: New power lines could ease transmission problems that hinder area wind energy development.

Minnesota utilities are moving forward on a long-awaited action to boost the state’s transmission capabilities, a Herald story reported Sunday.

Good. The Upper Midwest is swept by some of the strongest and steadiest winds in North America, but the wind energy industry here still is in its infancy. Why? Because of a lack of transmission capacity, industry and utility analysts agree.

The new power lines in Minnesota would help remove the bottlenecks.

“A group of 11 utilities, led by Xcel Energy, has proposed building three high-voltage transmission lines in Minnesota and neighboring states,” wrote Scott Wente of Forum Communications’ St. Paul bureau (“Minnesota looks at installing additional power lines,” Page 1A).

“A state agency has scheduled 10 public meetings during the next two weeks in northwestern, western and southern Minnesota to take public comment.”

One of the lines would stretch from Fargo through St. Cloud to Monticello, Minn. Among other purposes, the line would help pipe electricity generated in North Dakota to the Twin Cities and other growing areas in central and southern Minnesota. That’s the kind of capacity North Dakota’s energy industry needs if it’s going to grow.

In his 2007 State of the State address, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said he’d like to see the state double the amount of energy it supplies by 2025. The growth in the wind energy industry here promises to be especially exciting. As most North Dakotans know, the state has the highest wind energy potential of any state, but trails Texas, California, Minnesota and several other states in the amount of power that it actually generates from wind.

“The real bottleneck is transmission. That’s the main impediment,” said Jay Haley, a Grand Forks-based wind advocate and industry consultant, to Herald staff writer Tu-Uyen Tran in 2006. The best thing for the industry would be to clear that impediment first, Haley added.

The American Wind Energy Association agreed, saying transmission congestion is “one of the biggest constraints on wind energy’s growth in the U.S.” The group’s support of that idea is important. So is this item from the bottom of Sunday’s story: “The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a key opponent to the Big Stone II coal plant and transmission line project in South Dakota and western Minnesota, is not objecting to the CapX 2020 certificate of need.”

Minnesotans and North Dakotans alike should pay attention to the upcoming public meetings. The transmission project is not and shouldn’t be a sure thing, given that serious objections still could be raised.

That said, it’s encouraging to see utilities taking action on transmission capacity, a problem North Dakotans have heard about for years. It’s another in a series of developments that make the wind industry’s prospects in North Dakota look good.

– Tom Dennis for the Herald

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace