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Paynesville Press - February 27, 2002

Upgraded transmission line gets early start

By Michael Jacobson

Energy line Due to the mild weather for most of February, Xcel Energy got an early start on replacing a transmission line from Paynesville to Willmar.

The power company plans to replace the existing 115-kilovolt (kV) line with a new 230-kV line that will be able to handle four times the power of the existing line. The 115-kV line dates back to the 1930s, so its reliability as well as its carrying capacity are in question.

The $13 million project will use mainly the same corridor from Paynesville to Willmar, with the only changes around Willmar. In the Paynesville area, the transmission starts at the substation north of town, cuts across the North Fork of the Crow River west of town, and follows Roseville Road and then the Tri-County Road.

New steel poles in the Paynesville area have been erected from the substation to Roseville Road and along Roseville Road and the Tri-County Road in the last month. This work is part of the first phase of the project, the roughly 15 miles closest to Paynesville.

This first part of the project wasn't even scheduled to begin until March, but favorable weather conditions in February got the project started ahead of schedule, according to Gene Kotz, the project manager for Xcel Energy.

"We're ecstatic," said Kotz of the mild weather in February. "It's great that the weather has been what it's been."

Even the recent return of winter weather should help the project. Kotz said last week that the weather was almost too warm, with the ground getting too soft for the company's heavy equipment.

The new steel posts are taller than the old, wood H-beam posts that carried the wire, and current, for the past 70 years. The new poles will keep the higher voltage wire higher off the ground.

new steel towers The old poles will be left in place until the entire new section of new poles and line can be tested. The new line will be tested at carrying only 115-kV, and only after it passes will the old line and poles be removed.

The new steel towners are taller than the old wood H-beam towers. The old line was installed in the 1930s. The new 230-kV line will have four times the carrying capacity of the old line when completed in 2003.

Around 300 poles are needed for the entire new line. Nearly 120 miles of wire will be strung, as well, with four wires being stretched over the 30-mile cross-country route from Paynesville to Willmar.

A separate crew stringing wire is also working in the Paynesville area.

The transmission line has two more phases: a three-mile section running along a new route into Willmar and a 12-mile middle section that will be the last to be completed. For the new route in Willmar, Xcel Energy plans to construct a double circuit line that will carry not only the new 230-kV line for Xcel but also a 69-kV line for Great River Energy, which supplies power to both Meeker and Kandiyohi counties.

Work on the section in Willmar should start this summer and end next fall. Work on the middle section should start next fall and finish in the spring of 2003.

A large part of the project will be improving the infrastructure at the substation north of Paynesville to handle the new line and the power. New transformers and brakers will need to be installed and the substation enlarged. Of the total $13 million cost, a third, or $4.5 million, will be spent at the substation in Paynesville.

Work at the substation should also finish in the spring of 2003 when the new line should be finished.

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