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$500 million Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse power line to energize in 2015

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An Xcel Energy worker installs bird diverting equipment on a nearly completed Cap X2020 line near a river.

PINE ISLAND — After nearly a decade of planning, elements of the CapX2020 project are finally starting to come together in and around Rochester.

The first of eight phases for the $500 million Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse transmission line project is expected to be completed in October, when the 161-kilovolt line is connected between substations in North Rochester and Northern Hills. It's currently about 70 percent complete, according toGrant Stevenson,Xcel Energy's Senior Project Manager.

As of Wednesday, Stevenson said that 90 percent of the 153 concrete foundations had been poured along the 16-mile line, with about 65 percent having been allowed to cure the requisite 30 days. About 50 percent of the power line have been installed on poles ranging in height from 80 to 130 feet tall.

The goal is to have that segment of the line energized by March 2014.

"It's a lot of moving parts, said Mark Kellaher, CapX project manager. "It's kind of cool, but we do take a lot of time to get it right."


The eight-phase construction of the local line, which will be 150 miles long, is part of the larger $2.2 billion CapX project, which began in 2005 and seeks to improve the energy grid in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It could eventually be connected to Chicago.

However, the complex long-term planning has required a phased construction process that is on the verge of kicking into high gear.

Four substations are currently in various stages of construction. The Northern Hills site in Rochester is being upgraded to handle the 161-kilovolt line, and Rochester Public Utilities communications director Tony Benson says work "should be done within two weeks."

Grading was completed this week for a new substation being built in Pine Island, at the site dubbed North Rochester. Electrical crews will begin work in about a month, according to Stevenson. That line is expected to be energized just a few months before RPU shuts down its Silver Lake coal plant in Rochester, though Benson calls that timing a fortunate coincidence.

"The (Silver Lake Power) decommissioning and CapX are not really related projects, however their timing couldn't be better," Benson said via statement. "As (Silver Lake Power) ceases electric generation by the end of 2015, CapX will add connections into Rochester's electrical grid, increasing the available power from the outside, thus increasing Rochester's electric reliability."

The new substation in Hampton is expected to be completed next April, while construction on the substation in La Crosse, Wis., will roll into 2015. Erecting the huge poles is the next step, and that process will also continue into 2015.

The second phase is scheduled to begin in September, as Xcel crews will start the process of extending the 345-kilovolt line east from the Hammond area towards the Mississippi River. That phase will include 113 poles standing between 130 and 190 feet tall; local energy distribution poles are typically 30-50 feet tall, Stevenson said.

Work on the controversial segment crossing the Zumbro River is targeted to begin in February 2014. CapX officials expressed confidence that the deadline remains realistic, but Oronoco Township filed a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court earlier this month in an attempt to shift the route further north. If the township's request is granted, it will likely cause delays.


"If the courtdoes decide to retake it, we'll have to pause and rethink how we'llprogress thru that area," Stevenson said.

While phases 4-6 are planned in Wisconsin, the final phases to energize the project are planned in the Rochester area and will start the same day. Construction to connect the Hampton substation to the North Rochester site with a 345-kilovolt line will begin on June 1, 2015. At the same time, RPU is scheduled to begin construction on a 161-kilovolt line extending south to Chester from near Elgin.

When the entire project comes online in late 2015, officials expect it to enhance local energy stability and reduce electrical costs.

"It's a big operation," Kellaher said. "Everyone has cell phones and TVs, and energy consumption continues to go up. The grid is changing. You have renewable energy like wind and solar coming online … and you have to be able to move that to where the people are.

Phase 1: North Rochester to Northern Hills — completed Oct. 2013

Phase 2: Hammond area to Mississippi River — start Sept. 2013

Phase 3: North Rochester to Hammond area — start Feb. 2014


Phase 4: Mississippi River east to Briggs Road (west to east) — start July 2014

Phase 5: Mississippi River east to Briggs Road (SE to NW) — start July 2014

Phase 6: Galesville to Onalaska — start March 2015

Phase 7: Hampton to North Rochester — start June 2015

Phase 8: Hammond area to Chester — start June 2015

*Phases 4-6 are in Wisconsin

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Xcel Energy crew men pour a concrete footing for a CapX2020 line.

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