Transmission buildouts ensure continued reliability

The demand for electricity is constantly changing, with peaks and valleys occurring throughout the day. Transmission lines play a pivotal role in getting electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s used. Without a well-connected and robust transmission network, electricity can’t efficiently flow to where it is needed most.

As energy needs continue to grow in Basin Electric’s service area, so does the need for additional generation and transmission resources. Building generation and transmission infrastructure is crucial for a variety of reasons, and it plays a vital role in ensuring a reliable, efficient, and sustainable electric system.

To meet its growing needs, Basin Electric is on track to energize nearly 350 miles of high-voltage transmission line by the end of 2027, which means several transmission projects are either being constructed or are scheduled for construction. “Currently, Basin Electric has a large high-voltage transmission buildout in North Dakota, and we are working closely with our right-of-way (ROW) and permitting group on transmission line routing and design,” says Bobby Nasset, Basin Electric supervisor of Civil Engineering.

transmission graphic
Pictured are structure loading drawings, 3D model for fabrication and structure checking, and the final field installation.

Once a transmission project is defined with a start and end point, map databases of the project area are created. The design team develops preliminary alignments that meet state routing requirements, avoiding things like homes, existing utilities, cultural areas, and wetlands.

“The straightest and shortest line is the most economical as long as the terrain works for a power line,” says Shane Vasbinder, Basin Electric senior civil engineer. “Every time we have to add angles or length, the costs go up.” The design team then works with landowners to develop routes that minimize impact to their operations.
With each new project comes challenges. “One design challenge I worked on for these lines is the new Southwest Power Pool electrical loading requirement,” Vasbinder says. “At the 345-kV voltage, transmission lines are now required to have at least 3000 amps. Due to this, we had to evaluate new conductors that could meet the power delivery requirements.”

It takes many hours and manpower to construct a transmission line from start to finish, and nothing gets built without a plan. “You need a design to get the permits, to get the ROW, to create the construction drawings, to order material, and to get the line constructed,” Vasbinder says.

To get an idea of what goes into each project, Nasset shares a detailed update on the cooperative’s current high-voltage transmission projects.

Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge

Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge is a 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission project needed to support load growth in western North Dakota. “We have a handful of remaining landowner negotiations to complete easement acquisition,” Nasset says. “The design is complete, and we have submitted an Environmental Assessment to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the segment of the line that crosses Fort Berthold Indian Reservation Trust land. We have ordered steel pole structures and conductor and are currently reviewing fabrication details for the project to facilitate early summer delivery.” The project team has met with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss the construction plan and sequence and how to mitigate and reduce any impacts to several endangered species, including the northern long-eared bat and the Dakota skipper butterfly. All survey permissions have been acquired, and staff are working on utility crossing agreements. The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) application will be submitted this fall.

Transmission for Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV

Pioneer Generation Station (PGS) Phase IV will generate about 580 megawatts (MW) of natural gas generation near the existing Pioneer Generation Station northwest of Williston, North Dakota. In addition to the generation portion of this project, it includes 15 miles of 345-kV transmission line. “We are finishing up on ROW acquisition for the 14-mile transmission line,” Nasset says. “The PSC permit for the generation side of the project was received in February. For the 345-kV PGS-to-Judson transmission line, our plan is to issue the PSC permit application this fall. All material has been ordered and we bid construction in September, with the contract award expected in November or December.”

Leland Olds Station-to-Tande

Leland Olds Station-to-Tande is a 345-kV, 175-mile transmission project needed to enhance transmission load-serving capability in North Dakota and to mitigate regional reliability constraints. The project includes a new 345/115-kV substation and the reconstruction of the existing Leland Olds Station 345-kV substation. Basin Electric continues to meet with landowners to discuss routing options and has developed a preferred route. The next step will be to begin ROW acquisition and negotiations with landowners. “We expect the route to have several modifications as we finish up the detailed design and landowner coordination,” Nasset says. “Biological and archeological surveys are ongoing to facilitate the final design and permitting.” The project goal is to submit a PSC application late next spring to support the project schedule, which is scheduled to start construction in early 2025 and energize by November 2026.

Tande- and Wheelock-to-Saskatchewan

The Tande- and Wheelock-to-Saskatchewan projects consist of two 230-kV transmission lines that are needed to enhance the export and import capabilities between the United States and Canada. This cross-border energy exchange can provide access to a wider range of energy resources, enhance energy security, and improve grid stability. “The project team continues to meet monthly with SaskPower for coordination at the border crossing for the transmission lines,” Nasset says. “We have preliminary routes and alternatives for both circuits, Tande-to-Saskatchewan and Wheelock-to-Saskatchewan.” The project team has been working on assembling an application for the Presidential Permit to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the border crossing permit, which will start the federal permitting process. “We met with the DOE at the end of the September to review the draft application,” Nasset says. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2026 and energize in October 2027.

Building additional generation and transmission infrastructure is essential for maintaining a reliable, efficient, and sustainable generation and transmission system. These buildouts serve as the backbone of the energy distribution system, ensuring electricity remains accessible, stable, and reliable for the evolving needs of Basin Electric’s membership.

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