Article

Wind energy gets boost as feds OK system to pay for new lines

Federal authorities on Thursday approved a plan that could make it easier to deliver wind energy from Minnesota and the Dakotas to the eastern United States. The proposal boosts the chances that a $725 million high-voltage power line proposed from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton in Dakota County will be built.

Decision could help Brookings-to-Hampton project

Federal authorities on Thursday approved a plan that could make it easier to deliver wind energy from Minnesota and the Dakotas to the eastern United States.

The proposal boosts the chances that a $725 million high-voltage power line proposed from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton in Dakota County will be built. The line has nearly all the regulatory approval it needs along its more than 200-mile route, but the question of who pays for it has been hanging for years.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, approved a payment system by the organization that runs the region's power grid - the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, or MISO. MISO will be allowed to spread the cost of new high-voltage transmission lines like the Brookings project across its territory of 13 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba instead of limiting it to zones immediately along a line.

The proposal dilutes the financial impact of very expensive electrical superhighways, but it requires consumers in states far from a line to pick up part of the cost. This cost-sharing has not been universally well-received in some eastern MISO states, and some... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Decision could help Brookings-to-Hampton project

Federal authorities on Thursday approved a plan that could make it easier to deliver wind energy from Minnesota and the Dakotas to the eastern United States.

The proposal boosts the chances that a $725 million high-voltage power line proposed from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton in Dakota County will be built. The line has nearly all the regulatory approval it needs along its more than 200-mile route, but the question of who pays for it has been hanging for years.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, approved a payment system by the organization that runs the region's power grid - the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, or MISO. MISO will be allowed to spread the cost of new high-voltage transmission lines like the Brookings project across its territory of 13 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba instead of limiting it to zones immediately along a line.

The proposal dilutes the financial impact of very expensive electrical superhighways, but it requires consumers in states far from a line to pick up part of the cost. This cost-sharing has not been universally well-received in some eastern MISO states, and some Minnesota critics want the costs to be borne only by the utilities that directly connect to a line, which would make such projects less likely to be built.

MISO proposed the payment system for a category of super-high-voltage lines that would cross multiple transmission zones and serve more than one purpose. MISO believed these "multi-value projects" benefit its entire region so the burden of paying for them should be shared broadly.

The lines could carry coal-fired power, but many of the estimated 17 lines under consideration are needed to meet renewable energy mandates, wind energy advocates say.

FERC officials said its approval "removes barriers" to development of more Midwest wind energy. "We are pleased to see our filing upheld by the FERC," said MISO Chief Executive Officer John Bear.

Minnesota wind advocates also applauded the decision but raised a caution.

FERC's decision requires wind developers and other power generators to pay for nearly all the cost of lines that connect their wind projects to a super-high-voltage line.

"That potentially could be disturbing to us," said Jamie Karnik, spokesman for Wind on the Wires, a wind industry association based in St. Paul.

These interconnecting lines are like freeway onramps, Karnik explained. Generally, they're short and inexpensive compared with projects like the Brookings line, but a lot will depend upon placement, Karnik said.

The interconnection burden was part of a compromise hammered out by MISO in exchange for letting wind developers off the hook for paying for long-distance transmission, said Will Kaul, vice president for transmission for Great River Energy.

Kaul, who is overseeing the Brookings project as part of regional power initiative CapX 2020, expects MISO to consider approval of Brookings as a "multi-value project" next June.

If approved, construction could begin late next year and the entire line could be in service in 2015, he said.


Source: http://www.twincities.com/b...

DEC 17 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/29348-wind-energy-gets-boost-as-feds-ok-system-to-pay-for-new-lines
back to top