Public to comment on certificate of need
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has released an environmental report that on March 6 and 7 will be the center of attention in public hearings pertaining to a 115 kilovolt electric power transmission line and substations proposed for Plymouth and Medina.
Two public hearing sessions will relate to the certificate of need for the Hollydale project, a joint Xcel Energy/Great River Energy effort. The first session is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, and the second for 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 7. Both hearings will be at the Medina Entertainment Center Grand Ballroom, 500 Highway 55 in Medina.
The hearings will address whether the proposed transmission line project is needed and in the public interest, and the costs, benefits, and impacts of various alternatives to the proposed transmission line project. Administrative Law Judge Eric L. Lipman will preside at the hearing.
Members of the public also can submit written comments to Judge Lipman. The deadline is 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 25. Send comments by mail to Honorable Eric L. Lipman, Administrative Law Judge, P.O. Box 64620, 600 N. Robert St., Saint Paul, MN 55164-0620 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the Public Utilities Commission Docket Number – E-002. ET2/CN-12-113, and the OAH Docket Number – 8- 2500-23147-2, on all correspondence.
Xcel Energy and Great River Energy are proposing to remove approximately eight miles of an existing Great River Energy-owned 69 kV overhead transmission line and to construct a new 115 kV overhead transmission line in its place. The proposal also calls for constructing an additional eight-tenths of a mile of new 115 kV overhead transmission line, constructing the new Pomerleau Lake substation in Plymouth, and modifying associated transmission facilities in Medina and Plymouth.
The Hollydale power line project would begin at the substation located near Willow Drive and Highway 55 in Medina and connect with the existing Hollydale substation and the new Pomerleau Lake substation in Plymouth. Both the Medina and Hollydale substations would be upgraded to handle 115 kV of electrical power.
The certificate of need process is separate from the process that will end in selection of a specific route for the Hollydale project. Both processes include environmental evaluations of some sort. The environmental report for the certificate of need is available on the city of Medina website at ci.medina.mn.us.
Xcel and Great River have noticed an increased appetite for electrical power in Plymouth and Medina, and for this reason, the two companies are proposing to upgrade local power lines and substations and construct the new Pomerleau Lake substation.
Residents of both Medina and Plymouth have expressed concerns about a number of issues relating to the proposed power line upgrade, including health concerns, reduction of property values, loss of trees and effects on plants and wildlife. The environmental report for the certificate of need addresses these concerns and more. It also includes lower voltage alternatives to the 115 kV power line and other alternatives, such as wind power, purchasing power and doing nothing at all. Maps for the lower voltage alternatives show power line routes in Plymouth. The map for the 115 kV line shows the route of the existing 69 kV line in Medina.
The 115 page environmental report does not show the 12 alternative routes that have been proposed by people who do not want the Hollydale power line to run past or through their properties. These alternative routes are located in both Medina and Plymouth. The final route will be determined after the Public Utilities Commission decides whether the Hollydale project is needed. To find out the details of the 13 proposed routes, check out the July 31, 2012 scoping document at mn.gov/commerce/energy facilities/documents/32121/EIS_Scoping_Decision_Signed_073112.pdf.
Meanwhile, people who are willing to read the lengthy environmental report will find some interesting data.
For example, the applicants propose to use galvanized steel or weathering steel poles with heights of approximately 70 to 105 feet and average spans of 300 to 500 feet between structures. The typical right of way width would be 75 feet.
If power lines are constructed above ground, surrounding air provides the insulation and dissipation of heat. If they are constructed underground, they must be insulated from the surrounding area and cooling stations every few thousand feet are necessary to dissipate heat. These problems, and other things, drive up the cost of under grounding power cables.
The environmental report also summarizes health effects on humans, including effects on cardiac pacemakers.
A section on the effects of transmission lines on property values notes that they are affected, but a number of factors come into play. Here are some quotes to inspire people to read the section on property values in the environmental report:
“Adverse effects on property prices tend to be greatest immediately after a new transmission line is built and diminish over time.”
“Studies have found a potential reduction of sale price for single-family homes of between 0 to 14 percent. Studies conducted in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) have shown an average decrease of 4 to 7 percent.”
“Although proximity to a transmission line does not appear to affect appreciation of a property, it can sometimes result in increased selling time.”
“Property characteristics such as the neighborhood, proximity to schools, lot size, square footage of the house, and other amenities, tend to exert a greater effect on sale price than the presence of a power line.”