Minnesota Green Group Fights Wind Power Transmission Line

Published February 1, 2009

A Minnesota environmental activist group is fighting against the construction of power lines to deliver wind power to the state, shortly after environmental activist groups successfully pressured the state government into enacting renewable power mandates.

Less than two years after the state legislature passed an aggressive renewable power mandate, the Citizens Energy Task Force has registered as a “legally intervening party” and is drafting legal arguments asserting the proposed wind power transmission lines unlawfully threaten regional wildlife.

When Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) signed into law a bill requiring the state’s residents to purchase 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, he and the state legislature likely believed they had cemented the goodwill of environmental activist groups for many years to come. The spirited opposition to the wind power transmission lines is proving such hopes to be illusory.

Stronger Winds in Dakotas

CapX 2020 is a project by Xcel Energy and 11 other regional utilities to deliver wind power from turbines in North and South Dakota to Minnesota. Wind power transmission from the Dakotas is desirable because wind resources are significantly more abundant there than in Minnesota.

To deliver wind power from the Dakotas, however, CapX 2020 will have to build 700 miles of new transmission lines across the northern plains.

Opposition to Power Lines

“We want smaller-scale projects closer to where load is and where there would be less harmful impacts,” Citizens Energy Task Force attorney Paula Maccabee told Greenwire on December 1.

Citizens Energy Task Force says it fears if the transmission lines are built, some coal power might also be transmitted along the lines. Approval of the long transmission lines “isn’t needed for renewable energy or for community reliability and would negatively impact the environment, particularly at the Mississippi River crossing,” the organization argues on its Web site.

“Require the utilities to commit to Minnesota community-based wind, not just large corporate wind projects,” the Web site urges.

“We have some of the best wind power potential along the eastern part of our state,” countered South Dakota state Rep. Tom Hansen (R-Huron). “It would be unfortunate and unfair to the rate payers of Minnesota for that to be withheld from them for any reason.

“We need power from all sources, and we need transmission lines to allow for the interconnection with various substations if the grid is going to be able to function properly,” Hansen added.

Green Motives Questioned

Minnesota state Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) questioned the motives of environmental activist groups fighting the power lines.

“The Citizens Energy Task Force is showing their true anti-consumer colors by opposing the construction of new power lines to transmit the very wind power they claim to support,” said Peppin. “Their all-or-nothing approach should be recognized for what it is—environmental extremism that only serves to drive up costs to ratepayers.”

Greens Battling Greens

“The larger environmental organizations have called for a truce on extended transmission lines,” said Minnesota state Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R-East Bethel). “On the other hand, some local groups believe that new lines will bring in new coal plants.

“Many so-called environmentalists just don’t understand that you can’t hook wind or biomass generation into the grid anywhere you want. It doesn’t work that simply,” Jungbauer explained.

“The next-generation power lines and grid controls can support these alternative options as well as deliver power more efficiently. It is good for all consumers to support new, larger-capacity lines and other grid updates. Getting more electricity to us more efficiently keeps costs low,” Jungbauer said.

E. Jay Donovan ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.