County board objects to Xcel power line for wind and solar

Apparently the doubling in cost of a proposed 175-mile long high voltage power line in southwestern Minnesota to more than $1 billion hasn’t slowed down Xcel’s determination to connect more wind and solar installations to the grid. The utility simply passes along the cost to consumers in the form of a rate hike.

But the objections recently raised by the Renville County Board just might. One of two routes proposed by Xcel runs through the county, according to the West Central Tribune.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners told Matt Langan, who works on routing and permitting for Xcel Energy, that the line would adversely affect agricultural operations along that route, particularly when it’s not following road right of way.

“Renville County is agriculture,” Board Chair Greg Snow told Langan following a presentation on the route proposals at the County Board meeting on Nov. 21. “It’s what we do, what we are, so this is major for us.”

“My neighbors aren’t very happy,” said Randy Kramer, a member of the County Board and one of the landowners affected by the proposed route. “The phone has been ringing off the hook since we got the letter last week,” he said in reference to a letter informing landowners about the possible routes.

Those concerns echo the rallying cry stoked by Carleton College professor Paul Wellstone against a controversial powerline constructed by the utility in west central Minnesota in the 1970s. The protests received national media attention and lasting recognition by the Minnesota Historical Society.

The line has 659 towers placed at intervals of one-quarter mile on the property of 476 landowners. The controversy escalated as costs of the project rose and additional frustration was created by review processes, and by what many protesters saw as excessive concern by the federal and state governments for wildlife areas and highway right of ways at the expense of protection for productive farmland. In addition to local and state government, the controversy involved political parties, churches, civic organizations, and businesses in communities throughout the affected region.

Of course, those who question the huge expansion of transmission lines today face much different treatment by a media and establishment in full support of the green agenda. Liberals once adamantly opposed to more electric lines cannot build them fast enough. Yet elected officials in Renville County appear ready to stand their ground despite the powerful forces against them.

If the route is chosen, Xcel Energy will pay for easements based on the current value of land. That is not adequate compensation for the adverse affects the current landowners as well as future landowners will experience, according to Kramer.

He charged that the most recent route proposal is not the same as outlined in maps that landowners viewed at prior public open house meetings on the possible routes and were depicted on a project website.

The Minnesota Energy Connection will benefit counties in southwestern Minnesota, which will receive production taxes on solar and wind energy produced for the line. Renville County will not realize any economic benefits.

”We get nothing out of it except we get to look at the poles,” said Kramer.

Once Xcel selects a route, the massive 175-mile line will begin construction through fields and farms in about a year.