The newly-completed CapX2020 transmission line through the Midwestern United States has triggered proposals for 3,600 megawatts of new wind energy development, enough to produce more than US$15 million per year in royalty payments to landowners, according to Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, the utility that led the decade-long project.
While not all of those wind machines will be approved and built, “it’s a big deal,” said Wind on The Wires Executive Director Beth Soholt, an early supporter of the project. “It’s created a road to market for wind, allowed benefits to accrue to communities where wind can be developed.”
“The flood of applications represents the tangible impact of CapX2020 in moving electrons from windier parts of the Midwest to dense population centres to the east,” Midwest Energy News notes. “The line allows greater flexibility to bring large volumes of wind energy onto the grid when it is available, a key to incorporating more renewable energy into the marketplace.” (MWEN is a member of Wind on The Wires.)
The $2-billion, 800-mile project “stands as one of the largest investments in energy infrastructure in Minnesota history, with 5,000 transmission structures on the six sections of the project,” the publication notes. “What started out as a project to improve the grid’s reliability and improve the Upper Midwest’s economic stability has created a clean energy superhighway.”
Since CapX2020 was one of the first initiatives under the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) designated as a “multi-value project” (MVP), developers could spread some of its cost across a much wider transmission area. “MVPs in other states have similarly been credited for facilitating new wind development,” MWEN notes.
“By adding these CapX lines, we’ve multiplied the network capacity of what used to be there, both because we have more lines and higher capacity,” said Teresa Mogensen, Xcel’s senior vice president for transmission.
“It’s like putting in a highway where before you just had local roads,” she added. “You can carry a lot more traffic a lot farther and a lot faster on that freeway structure,” and “we can move a lot more power from west to east.”
MWEN traces the long history of the project, including the legislation and collaboration among utilities that made it possible, and the challenges proponents faced with land acquisition—made somewhat easier by changes in eminent domain laws that allowed increased payments for landowners.
A study by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, sponsored by CapX, also pointed to a careful community planning process that helped resolve disputes along the proposed line when they occurred.
“They engaged to an unparalleled degree with landowners, town, city, and county administrators, state utility commissioners, legislatures, and regulators throughout the planning process to bring a new era of transparency and civic engagement to transmission planning, siting, and construction of new high-voltage transmission lines,” the report stated.