MidAmerican plans new electric transmission line

Monday, May 5, 2014

120.85 mile long line originates in O'Brien County

According to news recently posted on the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) website, the IUB issued an order on April 9, 2014 in the matter of granting a franchise to MidAmerican Energy to construct, operate and maintain a new transmission line that's approximately 120.85 miles long.

The IUB order says that on Jan. 18, 2014 MidAmerican Energy Company (MEC) filed six petitions with the IUB requesting franchises for a new 345 kV line that's planned for O'Brien, Clay, Palo Alto, Kossuth, Humboldt and Webster Counties.

At the Dec. 8, 2011 Mid-Continent Independent System Operator (MISO) Annual Board of Director's meeting, MISO approved 17 high voltage alternating current (HVAC) transmission projects they called their Multi-Value Portfolio or MVP Projects. In Dec. of 2011, these 17 MVP projects appeared in MISO's Midwest Transmission Expansion Plan 2011 (MTEP2011) with an estimated $5.6 billion cost over 10 years.

Three MVP projects will impact Iowa. MVP #3 is a new HVAC transmission line that starts in NW Iowa near Sanborn at a new MEC substation and ends at an existing 345,000 volt (kV) MEC substation near Fort Dodge in Webster County. Another MVP project has a point of origin near ITC Midwest's Lakefield Junction, Minnesota substation in Jackson County. The new line crosses Martin and Faribault Counties where it turns south to a new 345 kV substation in Kossuth County near Algona.

There it joins the MVP #3 project coming from Sanborn. These MVP #3 & 4 projects then head east to near Mason City where they turn south to Grundy County and then east to ITC Midwest's Hazleton, Iowa 345 kV substation east of Waterloo. In Dec. 2011, these MVP #3 & 4 projects had an estimated cost of $952,000,000. The last MVP Project (MVP #7) in Iowa starts near Ottumwa and heads south into Missouri.

The April 9th IUB order says the purpose for these MVP projects will enhance the ability to interconnect and deliver generation, including substantial amounts of renewable generation, provide reliability benefits, and decrease congestion in the MISO footprint.

In O'Brien County 9.76 miles of new power line will run in Lincoln and Hartley Townships. About 8 miles of new line will be built in Clay County. The balance of the 120-mile route will run largely in Corn Belt Power Company 161 kV and 69 kV existing right-of-way.

The IUB says that as of the date of this order, MEC requests eminent domain authority for two parcels in Clay County, two parcels in Palo Alto County and one parcel in Humboldt County. However, before MEC can be vested with the power of eminent domain, it must demonstrate that the taking of private property described in its petitions is necessary for public use.

The IUB assigned this case on March 13, 2014 to an administrative law judge to among other things, establish a procedural schedule, conduct a hearing and issue a proposed decision. The administrative law judge assigned to this case is Amy L. Christensen. The final decision, however, will come from the 3-person IUB Board.

The IUB order then says that the public hearing to take evidence in this case has been set for 10:00 A. M. on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 in the Magistrate Courtroom, Kossuth County Courthouse at 114 W. State St., Algona, Iowa.

The most relevant statements included in this case states, "The proposed 345 kV line is a critical component of the MISO 2011 Portfolio of Projects and would allow for subsequent renewable energy additions in the area that would bring significant economic benefit to the area. The proposed 345 kV line will also enhance electric transmission line reliability throughout the area and will help to assure present and future business of an adequate power supply for present and future economic develop of the area."

These MEC statements taken together appear to be the allegation that the proposed construction is necessary to serve a public use. These statements assert that MEC's needs to provide an alternate or new transmission source to Webster County/ Fort Dodge area, and increase the reliability of service to the area, are sufficient to meet the test.

Another key statement in the filing says, "The initial 345 kV line study area is located within Plymouth, O'Brien, Cherokee, Clay, Buena Vista, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Kossuth, Humboldt and Webster Counties all within the State of Iowa. A greenfield route was initially considered for the entire length of the proposed 345 kV Line.

"However, the potential for using an existing corridor was identified very early in the routing analysis. Based on the result of this study, the 345 kV line route is proposed to be constructed primarily along existing corridors, supplemented by greenfield routes that generally aligns with existing corridors that generally meet the IUB criteria.

"A double-circuit monopole structure is proposed to be used to accommodate both the new 345 kV line and the existing 161 kV and 69 kV lines."

Again, the 161 kV and 69 kV lines are those owned by Corn Belt Power Company and are located in existing right-of-ways. When they talk of a "greenfield route" that means the power line would run in a new alignment where none has ever existed before. Easements with landowners along a greenfield route need to be negotiated from scratch. For much of this new HVAC power line, these landowner easements are already in place since the new line will be re-built into the existing 161 kV and 69 kV right-of-ways. The old H-frame structures will be removed.

The other historic policy shift in the MTEP2011 was the creation of MISO designated renewable energy zones, or wind energy zones. Six renewable energy zones are located in Iowa. Five are in a line from west of Des Moines along I-80 and then extending northwest up into far NW Iowa. The other renewable energy zone is located in north central Iowa in the area surrounding Kossuth County more or less. Five are located across southern and southwest Minnesota.

Prior to the summer of 2010, MISO had received 64,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy requests from developers to integrate these large amounts of wind energy into the MISO Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). To accommodate all these requests, and to capitalize on the Upper Midwest's wind rich resource, MISO came up with these MVP projects and the designation of renewable energy zones.

MISO is the non-profit, independent entity that oversees the high voltage grid in an area now that extends from the Louisiana Gulf Coast plum to the northern border of Manitoba in Canada. MISO's primary purpose is to get electricity to the consumer at the lowest possible cost.

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