Utilities launch transmission grid study

The CapX2020 utilities have announced their plan to study the transmission system that serves the Upper Midwest to identify system improvements and infrastructure upgrades that may be needed to achieve the ambitious 2050 carbon reduction goals established or proposed by utilities and policymakers.

The CapX2050 Transmission Vision Study will look at maintaining a safe, reliable and cost-effective electric grid as the system adds more carbon-free energy, such as wind and solar.

CapX2020 power line structures

The CapX2020 utilities successfully completed an 800-mile, nearly $2 billion grid expansion to facilitate renewable energy development in the Upper Midwest.

CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 10 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region formed to upgrade and expand the electric transmission grid to ensure continued reliable and affordable service. CapX2020 successfully completed an 800-mile, nearly $2 billion grid expansion in the Upper Midwest in 2017. Great River Energy was a founder of the organization and continues to be a leading member.

“We are seeing the benefits we expected from the CapX2020 transmission expansion, which strengthened reliability and created new pathways for bringing renewable energy to the market. We built the backbone, but now we need to address new issues,” said Priti Patel, Great River Energy’s vice president and chief transmission officer.

The CapX2020 organization said the study is critical to the eventual development of a comprehensive plan that will ensure the continued reliable delivery of low-cost electricity in a cost-effective manner. The utilities said they believe an emphasis on holistic long-term planning will ensure a successful transition to a clean energy future as the Upper Midwest generation fleet transitions to use higher levels of carbon-free generation, distributed generation and new energy storage technologies.

“We are looking at a carbon-free 2050 from an operational perspective by planning ahead to ensure the stability of our transmission system,” Patel said. “We are identifying the issues associated with less dispatchable resources and storage and looking at how both might possibly interact.”

The utilities said the study will also provide valuable data for sharing with policymakers, regulators and the public while providing opportunity for stakeholder input.

The study is targeted to be completed in January 2020.

The CapX2020 projects included four 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin and a 230-kV transmission line in northern Minnesota. The CapX2020 utilities are Central Municipal Power Agency/Services, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Great River Energy, Minnesota Power, Missouri River Energy Services, Otter Tail Power Company, Rochester Public Utilities, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, WPPI Energy and Xcel Energy. Visit capx2020.com for more information.