On Thursday April 16th, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) issued a Certificate of Need for the CapX 2020 project. The Certificate of Need grants approval for the erection of three 345 kV transmission lines that will traverse the state of Minnesota. However, the approval states that only the Brookings, SD, to Hampton, MN, line may be designated to carry wind energy.

While CapX 2020 advocates are excited that the PUC’s decision will help increase the reliability of the nation’s power grid and help reduce carbon emissions through increased efficiency in the lines, many wish more would have come out of the decision. Wind advocates would like to see more of the lines carry wind energy, since Minnesota needs to more than triple its installed wind energy capacity in order to achieve Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES). The law requires that 25% of retail electricity sold in the state come from renewable sources by 2025. To adhere to this mandate, new high-voltage transmission must be constructed to carry renewable energy across the state to load centers. Furthermore, utilities would like greater flexibility in determining which lines could be used for wind energy. Beth Soholt, the Executive Director of Wind on the Wires, probably describes the common feeling by CapX 2020 advocates best when she says, “we certainly wanted more… but we think this is a balanced decision.”

On the flip side, those who opposed the project from its impetus are disappointed that the project has come this far and advocate for investment in smart grid and localized generation technologies instead.

One thing seems clear, as with any decision – it is hard to satisfy everyone, particularly when a project has as many intricacies as the CapX 2020 project. However, as we look to improve the transmission issues associated with increasing our country’s installed wind capacity, it is clear that relying on a single solution is not the answer. Our nation needs both smart grid technologies and localized generation combined with an updated electrical infrastructure to efficiently carry large amounts of clean, carbon free energy to where it is needed.

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