Archived Story

CapX goes up in area

Published 11:10am Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Construction on the largest electrical transmission expansion in the country is near Fergus Falls, and some aspects of the project have already reached the area.

The formation of a “lay down station” that will help with the installation of large power line structures along Interstate 94 for the CapX2020 project began this spring, according to project spokesman Tim Carlsgaard. A large area has been cleared and the land leveled near Highway 1 just outside Fergus Falls.

Single pole structures will be stored at the site when the upcoming installation passes through the area in November.

The structures are 150 feet long and come in four sections. Their base is eight feet in diameter.

Depending on the soil, the foundations dug for the structures can reach between 40 and 70 feet deep.

The pole structures will be kept outside, and not under any roofed building. Crews are also building a heated garage for the storage and repair of trucks and other material.

The storage station will service the local Fargo-St. Cloud-Monticello project within the CapX2020 expansion. The area project will surpass a total cost of $600 million. The expansion is a collaboration between five power companies, including Otter Tail Power Company and Xcel Energy.

The local project will be completed in three phases. The first phase ran 28 miles of line between St. Cloud and Monticello and was completed in December of 2011.

Phase two covers more than 70 miles between Alexandria and St. Cloud. Crews are erecting structures and stringing wire, and the phase should be completed in early 2014.

Phase three will install lines from Alexandria to Fargo. Foundations for the pole structures are under construction west of Alexandria following the interstate to Barnesville. From there, the line will move toward the Red River.

In October, structure installation will begin between Barnesville and North Dakota. Foundations will then be built towards Fergus Falls, with the final completion of the local project in 2015.

The entire expansion is a response to increased consumption of electricity in the Midwest. With the larger transmission area, the five companies will be able to bring more electricity to communities.

“Electricity continues to grow and we needed to add more lines to power communities,” Carlsgaard said.

The expansion will help the companies meet the state’s renewable energy mandate as well. By 2020, companies need to produce 25 percent of the state’s power through renewable sources. In the Midwest, that is primarily from renewable wind energy.

The expanded lines should keep prices down as well. Since the Midwest grid is interconnected over many states, cheaper electricity can be bought in certain areas and used in others.

“You can build all the structures in the world to get energy from wind, but you need to be able to get it to where you want it to go,” Carlsgaard said. “What it allows a company like the Otter Tail Power Company to do is buy the cheapest electricity for its customers and keep energy prices down.”

The total length of the local project should reach seven years by the time it is completed and Carlsgaard said the companies have made good progress towards that goal.

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