NAWO Study Finds Distributed Generation Cheaper than Conventional Transmission Development


LAKE ELMO, MN 55042 Phone: 651-770-3861

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 21, 2009                                                                      Contact:  George Crocker    cell 651-491-9726

Transmission For Local, Distributed Electric Generators Much Cheaper Than Conventional Transmission Development, Finds New Minnesota Utility Study.

A new study released on September 15th by the Minnesota Department of Commerce contains very good news for those who want to develop renewable energy resources in a way that maximizes the economic benefits to Minnesota, and that keeps electric bills as low as possible.

The study was ordered by the Minnesota legislature in 2007 as part of an effort to encourage more locally owned wind energy projects.

The newly released Phase II report (Sept. 15, 2009) confirms and reinforces the findings of the Phase I study made public in June 2008: Link directly to the study report here:, also at and

–    The existing transmission system can accommodate a great deal
(over 650 megawatts {MW}) of new, strategically sized and located
electrical generation capacity; and more importantly,

To get the same amount of new renewable energy to consumers, it is
vastly cheaper to strategically enhance the existing system in a
dispersed and incremental fashion than it is to build the new big
conventional powerlines needed by large, remote wind farms.

Taken together, the studies found that 1,200 MW of projects between 10 and 40 MW each could be added to the system for a cost of about $100,000 per MW in new transmission infrastructure costs.  For comparison, the transmission costs are nine times higher for new generation capacity that will use the “Brookings Line” (one of three proposed ultra-high voltage/conventional power lines called CapX2020).  “Brookings” would be needed primarily by large remote wind farms—at a cost of about $930,000 per MW.

“The findings confirm that it is cheaper to expand renewable energy by interconnecting many smaller scale projects rather than building extra-high voltage transmission lines like CapX2020 to interconnect a relatively few very large scale projects,” says George Crocker of the North American Water Office, one of the groups that had lobbied for the studies.  “And smaller scale projects enable local ownership, which generates far more economic benefits to Minnesota than large scale wind energy projects usually owned by large, absentee multinational corporations.”

Crocker argues that the studies, if used by state policy makers, could have a major impact.  “For the first time, Minnesota agencies, regulators and utility managers have developed and used a rigorous analytical method to compare the cost of conventional central-station transmission development with that of transmission that encourages distributed, community-based electrical generation power plants.  If state officials use this method in the future to determine the proper set of new powerlines, in terms of size, location, and timing, it could not only spur hundreds of locally owned energy projects but could save the state’s electricity consumers billions of dollars by avoiding unnecessary new transmission lines.

Meanwhile, the CapX2020 high voltage power line project continues with the approval process with a projected cost of nearly $2 billion.  A “Certificate of Need” was granted in Aug. ‘09 and routing hearings will commence this fall.  Opposition groups continue to challenge the process and NAWO has collaborated with citizens groups currently appealing the Minn. Public Utility Commission decision on “Need”: Citizens Energy Task Force (, No and

For more information on community based energy development ( and transmission study details, contact George Crocker, founder, North American Water  Office.  Cell: 651-491-9726

North American Water Office (NAWO) is a non-profit organization chartered in 1982 to educate people about solutions to environmental problems caused by society’s waste.

CapX2020 says Otter Tail opt out okay

WINONA POST (also attached)

CapX2020 says Otter Tail opt out okay (09/20/2009)
By Sarah Elmquist

The proposed 700-mile transmission power line that could cut through Winona’s bluffs won’t be stopped if a proposed South Dakota coal plant project fails, even though the new lines would carry that coal-generated energy across the state.

CapX2020, a consortium of electric companies including Xcel Energy, has gotten permits for the project, which would stretch from Brookings, S.D., to La Crosse, Wis. The lines will cross the river at one of three proposed locations: Winona, La Crosse or Alma, Wis. A second phase of the project announced recently would extend the lines farther into Wisconsin to Madison.

Citizen groups and renewable energy advocates have objected to the line and asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to reopen the record to new information they say shows that the lines aren’t really needed by rate payers in Minnesota, fearing the lines would simply supply coal-generated power to urban areas like Madison and Chicago. Still others object to the towers because the river crossing would pose a hazard to threatened migratory birds and wildlife which use the Upper Mississippi Valley for nesting and migration.

The CapX2020 lines end about 60 miles from the proposed Big Stone II, a coal plant project set for the eastern border of South Dakota in Milbank. The coal plant project would include extending transmission lines to link to the CapX2020 lines in Granite Falls, Minn.

Last week, Big Stone II announced that its largest utility participant, Otter Tail Power, has withdrawn from the coal plant project, leaving some wondering whether it will actually be constructed. That project will not move forward unless new partners surface.

CapX2020 spokesperson Tim Carlsgaard said that even if Big Stone II fails, CapX2020 will proceed. The coal-generated power, he said, would act as a backup for wind generated power, which only feeds electricity to the grid 30 or 40 percent of the time — when it’s windy.

“There’s literally tens of thousands of megawatts of wind energy proposed out there [in western Minnesota and the region], and the system today just cannot support adding that type of generation,” he said.

Opponents to the CapX2020 project say that the power lines are meant to carry that coal-generated power to large cities like Chicago and Madison, on the dime of Minnesota rate payers. Local renewable energy projects like small-scale wind operations, they say, need smaller, local upgrades to the grid, not the large “super highway” of 345 kV lines proposed for CapX2020. Such a system, they say, forces wind energy development to mimic centralized power generation plants like coal and nuclear, and will mean large-scale wind farms and not small local projects.

CapX2020 has been challenged by several Minnesota groups, including the Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF), which recently filed an appeal with the MPUC on its approval for the project.

CapX2020 officials announced last month that the preferred river crossing will be at Alma, Wis. However, it is the MPUC which will determine the final route for the lines. CapX2020 officials are currently meeting with landowners to work out final possible routes, which could mean eminent domain for some property owners.

For more about CapX2020, visit For more about CETF, visit


POWERLINE TRUTH is an educational campaign designed to help citizens learn more about the best direction for our energy future. The “Ten Truths” are specific reasons why new ultra high voltage power lines are not needed. POWER LINE TRUTH explores methods to move forward with “smart” energy that is local, renewable, safe and cost-effective. These truths were crafted by experts in renewable energy, efficiency, conservation and environmental protection.

Read the Ten Powerline Truths.

Look for future updates and more information coming from the POWER LINE TRUTH Educational Campaign.

CETF Collaboration:

In addition to the on-going formal legal appeal of the Certificate of Need (CON) decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Citizens Energy Task Force is collaborating with other organizations seeking to promote local, clean energy and challenge the need for new ultra high voltage power lines.  These organizations include:



Sept. 10, 2009 – For Immediate Release:


Citizens Group Proposes Local, Clean Renewable Energy Versus More Coal Energy with CapX2020

On Sept. 9, 2009, Citizens Energy Task Force ( filed a petition to appeal the August 10, 2009 final decision by the Minn. Public Utilities Commission to Grant a “Certificate of Need” for the CapX2020 high voltage line projects. The process now enters a new venue at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“The groundswell of opposition from residents and utility customers in both Wisconsin and Minnesota helped move us to take the major step of formal legal appeal,” stated Paula Maccabee, attorney for the non-profit citizens group CETF. “We’ve compiled extensive evidence that reveals major flaws in the methods used by the utilities to show a “need” for the CapX2020 power lines including new evidence of a significant drop in peak energy demand.”

The CapX2020 projects consist of three 345 kilovolt (kV) ultra high voltage power lines proposed by Xcel Energy, Great River Energy and nine other utilities: 1) Twin Cities to La Crosse 345 kV project (La Crosse Project); 2) Twin Cities to Fargo 345 kV project (Fargo Project) and 3) Twin Cities to Brookings 345 kV project (Brookings Project). These CapX2020 projects would result in approximately 600 miles of ultra high voltage power lines at a cost of nearly $2 billion.

CETF has raised the following issues in its appeal from the Minn. Public Utilities Commission decision to approve the CapX2020 Projects:

1) The Commission erred in failing to re-open the record to consider newly-discovered evidence of the decline in peak demand for electricity. Reasonable forecasts through 2020, including Xcel Energy’s own forecast, demonstrate that demand in the CapX2020 service area will be below the lowest threshold supporting a regional reliability need for the CapX2020 Projects. Absent a need for regional reliability, reasonable alternatives to the CapX2020 Projects that address community reliability and support generation capacity must be reconsidered.

2) The Commission erred in certifying the “Twin Cities to La Crosse” Project in violation of certificate of need statutes and rules governed by the Minn. Environmental Rights Act (MERA) and the Minn. Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) as well as rules pertaining to prohibited power line routes within protected areas. The La Crosse Project will cross a National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, impair the purpose for which the Refuge was designated and harm protected natural resources. There are feasible and prudent alternatives to the Project that meet energy needs consistent with the reasonable requirements of public health, safety and welfare and the state’s paramount concern for the protection of natural resources.

3) The Commission erred in certifying the La Crosse Project without considering conflicts with federal rules, regulations and policies regarding wildlife refuges and habitat as is required under certificate of need statutes and rules.

4) The commission exceeded its authority in certifying the CapX2020 upsized (double-circuited) alternative given the lack of demonstrated need for the upsized Projects.

A “Petition for Writ of Certiorari” (petition of appeal) was submitted on Sept. 9, 2009 by Citizens Energy Task Force. The Minnesota Court of Appeals will be asked to overturn the Certificate of Need (CON) decision by the Minn. Public Utilities Commission. Another potential outcome is a decision to require the Commission to reopen the proceedings to consider the new evidence of decline in demand for electricity brought forward by CETF and other groups opposing the project.

An appeal of the decision has also been filed by No CapX2020 ( and United Citizens Action Network ( Other groups opposing the project include North American Water Office (, Institute for Local Self Reliance (, Stop CapX2020 ( and Mississippi River Revival.

Meanwhile, the CapX2020 utilities continue their efforts to determine routes for the CapX2020 power lines. ( ).

Group challenging plans for three high-voltage lines

Group challenging plans for three high-voltage lines across Minn.
by Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio

September 9, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — A citizens group is challenging plans for three major transmission lines across Minnesota, but backers of the so-called Cap-X project say the lines are key to the state’s energy future.
The Citizens Energy Task Force is asking the state to reconsider its approval of the high-voltage lines, and is taking the matter to the Court of Appeals.
Attorney Paula Maccabee represents the Citizens Energy Task Force. She said projections of energy demand have changed since planning for the power lines began, five years ago.

“We brought together evidence which was only discovered after the hearing closed showing Xcel, which represents almost half of the demand in the CapX case, had experienced not only no increase, but actually a substantial drop in energy use between 2006 and 2008,” Maccabee said.
Maccabee said, with the Minnesota law requiring utilities to conserve one-and-a-half-percent of their output every year, the state’s need for electricity should not grow.

But Jim Alders, from Xcel Energy, said even with slower demand growth, the lines are needed to beef up the grid, and to bring on more wind power.
“You reach a point where it’s much more efficient to move traffic using a freeway instead of a lot of gravel roads,” Alders said.
The state Public Utilities Commission approved the project last spring; it’s now considering possible routes. Construction could begin about a year from now.