Basin Electric team continually plans for reliable transmission

Basin Electric Transmission team members Ryan Koch, Basin Electric electrical engineer; Jeremy Severson, Basin Electric manager of Transmission Services; Preston Blinsky, Basin Electric electrical engineer; and Phil Westby, Basin Electric senior electrical engineer.

The Transmission team at Basin Electric is constantly monitoring for current and future transmission needs. They were a part of the recent planning effort that resulted in the approval of about $500 million in transmission projects to be built over the next several years.

Transmission projects are submitted to Southwest Power Pool (SPP) for ultimate approval, according to Phil Westby, Basin Electric senior electrical engineer. “We know what projects we want to submit, but we have to send those projects proposals to SPP to verify,” he says. “We submitted a handful of ideas to SPP to evaluate where they look at the benefits and the costs of each option, and then they see how they perform as far as load serving capability. They look at which option meets the forecast need, but also allows for additional load growth.”

“These projects are the ultimate result of SPP verifying the needs we were seeing in western North Dakota and getting the approval from SPP and all the stakeholders within that group,” says Jeremy Severson, Basin Electric manager of Transmission Services. “It shows off all the effort we put in as a team and is a large success project for Basin Electric and its membership. I’m really proud of the effort and time that our team put into the months of study work and SPP processes.”

Severson has been a Basin Electric employee for 19 years, while Westby has been for 13 years. Their knowledge and experience has proven valuable.

“When sorting through thousands of violations on a spreadsheet, you have to be able to identify issues, group them, and know what issues are causing what,” says Westby. “You have to sort the issues and attach them to a project that you know will fix it, so the experience and knowledge is helpful.”

SPP’s final 2021 Integrated Transmission Planning (ITP) portfolio was approved in January 2022, 29 months after the Basin Electric Transmission team received that initial forecast in 2019. Four of the six employees in transmission services were part of the development of these projects in the eastern interconnection. They worked with the Cooperative Planning team for load forecasting and resource development as well as engineering for substation and line routing possibilities.

“It is rewarding to be working on this effort for so long and finally see something come out of it,” says Severson. “I’m proud of our team that worked on this lengthy effort. Even though we knew we had issues right away, it took considerable time to work those system issues through the process, and our team kept at it the entire time.”

The East Loop project includes approximately 175 miles of new 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line between the existing Leland Olds Station 345-kV substation and the existing Tande 345-kV substation. The Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge project includes approximately 35 miles of new 345-kV electric transmission line between the existing Roundup 345-kV substation and the existing Kummer Ridge 345-kV substation.

The projects were approved by Basin Electric’s board in May 2022. Both projects are planned to be energized in late 2025.

A look at the process:

SPP's long-term transmission planning is completed through their Integrated Transmission Planning (ITP) process. This yearly effort involves transmission analysis that looks at varying load and generation levels from present into the future. In 2019, Basin Electric revised their load forecast upward by over 1,000 megwatts (MW) in anticipation of further development in the Bakken region of western North Dakota. Upon Transmission Services receiving this new load forecast from the Power Supply Planning team, they recognized the transmission system would be insufficient to serve the forecasted loads and that ultimately new transmission would need to be built to serve the load as forecasted. Their internal analysis in late 2019 showed the need for two 345-kV transmission lines in western North Dakota due to this new forecasted load growth, but it would take some time before any approvals and moving forward with these plans.

The lengthy transmission planning process began with the Basin Electric team working with SPP and other entities to develop models in late 2019. Model development includes coordination between all SPP members to lay in load forecasts, future generation additions, retirements, and fuel assumptions. This modeling process takes about one year to complete before any analysis can begin. After the models are built, reliability and economic issues are identified by SPP.

SPP looks at what would happen if a specific line or substation were to be taken out of service. For example, they determine whether that outage is a forced or maintenance outage and then check to see what kind of problems could develop summarizes the needs assessment process. SPP compiles issues and places them in an assessment spreadsheet provided where each need is assigned a unique ID. Stakeholders are requested to provide solutions to those needs through a project submittal process, referred to as the Detail Project Proposal (DPP) open window.

The DPP solution window, which was open in May 2021, was what the Basin Electric team had been waiting on for the past 20 months knowing that the initial load submittal would result in numerous violations. They had been working on various options to mitigate the reliability and economic issues they and SPP had observed and confirmed. The Basin Electric team submitted several proposals after numerous in-house iterations including the Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge 345-kV project as well as the East Loop 345-kV project.