Xcel Moves Forward on Hiawatha Project Approval

The Minneapolis-based company submitted its certificate of need-which is required by state law-for the contentious project on Monday.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, Inc., took the next step in getting its Hiawatha transmission-line project approved by recently submitting required documents to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The proposed Hiawatha project is designed to meet the electricity needs of Xcel's customers in south Minneapolis. According to Xcel, the demand for power has increased beyond the capability of the current system due to population growth, higher load density, and recent urban revitalization efforts in the area.

The proposed project, which will cost between $30 million and $43 million, includes the construction of two new distribution stations and two new transmission lines. The total length of each transmission line would be between 1.4 miles and 3.8 miles long, depending on the final route. Pending regulatory review and approval, construction on the project is slated to begin in mid-2011 and be completed in 2012.

Xcel has received public backlash on the project since it first filed its application with the PUC in April 2009. One group, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, has publicly expressed concerns about the project-including negative aesthetic impacts, potential electric shocks to trail users and residents, and potential negative health impacts from elevated electric and magnetic fields, such as an increased risk of childhood leukemia.

Last month, some of the coalition's concerns were addressed when Administrative Law Judge Beverly Heydinger made recommendations to the PUC regarding the proposed project. She recommended that the power lines be buried under East 28th Street instead of below the Greenway's bike trail and that the lines be located as close to the center of the roadway as possible to minimize impacts on existing infrastructure and trees.

The company's certificate of need filing Monday is the next step in getting the contentious project approved.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a law that requires Xcel to go through the certificate-of-need process for the Hiawatha project due its size and the fact that it's located in an area with a large population. Before the legislation was passed in May, a project the size of the Hiawatha project did not require a certificate of need before it could be permitted.

The certificate-of-need process, which typically takes about a year to complete, calls for input from the public and gives opportunities for public participation through open houses, meetings, and hearings. In addition, as part of the process, the Minnesota Office of Energy Security will solicit public comment and prepare an environmental impact report.

Xcel is Minnesota's ninth-largest company based on its 2009 revenue, which totaled $9.6 billion.