Alexandria to
Big Oaks

Transmission expansion
to benefit
Minnesota customers

Current status

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is reviewing the Certificate of Need for both the western and eastern segments of the Big Stone South-Alexandria-Big Oaks project, along with the Route Permit application for the eastern segment between Alexandria and the Big Oaks substation near Becker. The State has added new river crossing options that were recommended during the public scoping comment period. These options will be studied in the state's Environmental Assessment, which will be published at the end of May, and are eligible to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission later this year.

The project has been assigned to an Administrative Law Judge who will set a schedule for testimony and hearings to be scheduled. When that schedule is approved we will work with State of Minnesota staff to inform landowners, local officials and stakeholders.

Project overview

Several Minnesota energy companies are proposing to build new transmission projects in the Upper Midwest to improve electric reliability, reduce transmission congestion, and increase access to renewable energy in the region. The Alexandria-Big Oaks project will involve stringing a new transmission line on the existing CapX2020 structures between the existing Alexandria substation and a new substation to be located on Xcel Energy property near the Sherco power plant in Becker, Minn..

The Alexandria-Big Oaks project is part of the Big Stone South-Alexandria-Big Oaks project. Learn more about the Big Stone South-Alexandria project here.

Before moving forward with construction, we will prepare applications to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit. The applications are expected to be filed in mid-2023, initiating a 12- to 15-month public review process led by the Commission.

If approved, construction would begin in late 2024 and be complete by the end of 2025.

Project Need

Reliable. Resilient. Renewables.

Minnesota's electric grid has served customers reliably for more than a century as our society has grown and changed, including the ways in which we create and use electricity. In the mid-1900s through the early 2000s, most of the electricity used in our region was generated by large coal plants.

In recent years, utilities have added new renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and retired aging plants that reached their expected useful lives. As plants are retired, new transmission is needed to deliver projects from where renewable energy is generated to the grid connections that have been built up over the century, including Central Minnesota where the Big Oaks substation will be located.

Additionally, the existing transmission system has begun to experience congestion due to the amount of new wind that has been built in the Upper Midwest over the years. Adding a second circuit to the existing transmission line will improve congestion on the system, reducing cost for customers.

Regulatory Process

Minnesota law requires energy companies that propose high-voltage transmission lines to file a Certificate of Need application, which is reviewed by the Public Utilities Commission. The application includes data such as engineering information, cost estimates, alternatives that were considered, and other information needed for the Commission to determine if the new infrastructure is needed to serve Minnesota electric customers and is in the public interest to construct.

Public review of Certificates of Need applications are overseen by an Administrative Law Judge who gathers written and verbal testimony provided by utility applicants and stakeholders such as the Department of Commerce (which represents Minnesota electric customers) and other groups that often participate in the review. The Judge will also oversee the public process where landowners, local governments and others can provide comments, either written and submitted to the docket or verbally at public meetings.

The Certificate of Need will cover the entirety of the Big Stone South-Alexandria-Big Oaks project, but separate Route Permit applications will be filed for the Big Stone South-Alexandria and Alexandria-Big Oaks segments.

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