Opposition mounts to proposed Xcel high-voltage line for wind energy

A room full of farmers and other residents at a public meeting in Marshall this week let Xcel Energy know they want nothing to do with the utility’s latest proposed high-voltage transmission line for wind power in their area. Both of the proposed routes for the high-voltage line would originate and cross through Lyon County in southwestern Minnesota. But the Marshall Independent indicates the project got panned with numerous landowners speaking out against the line, citing a variety of concerns.

“The process of making these decision where we’re running these lines is very critical to all of us, especially in what we do here in the land,” Brian Hicks said. “I’m just really encouraging you to take this serious, because it impacts us greatly.”

A few different speakers at the meeting — including state Rep. Chris Swedzinski — said the lines should not be built at all.

“I think Xcel is making a mistake shutting down the coal-fired plants,” Swedzinski said at the public comment session. “Give us more than just two choices. Give us a third, to just say no.”

There’s a sense rural Minnesotans are paying the price to meet extreme green energy mandates set in St. Paul that many view skeptically. It doesn’t help that it would be the second huge Xcel power line to cut through farms in the rural county.

Xcel Energy has applied for state permits to build a proposed 345-kilovolt electric transmission line running from Becker to a new substation near Garvin. Xcel spokespeople said the project would make it possible to connect with sources of wind energy in southwest Minnesota, to replace the coal-fired Sherco power plant in Becker.

The meeting checks off a box in the process Xcel must go through in order to obtain a permit to move forward from the Public Utilities Commission. Despite numerous concerns voiced by residents, the reality is Xcel has the option of using eminent domain to push the project through, if push comes to shove.

[Farmer Lisa] Dallenbach said she wanted the PUC to address the fact that Xcel could potentially take property for the transmission lines through eminent domain.

“Because it is a public utility, and it’s trying to do what’s best for the public, I have no say. You guys can come within 50 feet of my house. Nothing I can do about it. And that should frustrate all of us landowners, that we don’t have a choice,” Dallenbach said. “We don’t want our land stolen from us. We’ve worked hard for it.”

“If a public utility such as Xcel Energy gets a route permit from the Commission, they can use the provisions in eminent domain,” [PUC staff member Steve] Ek said. However, before that could happen the Commission would first need to determine there was a need for the project, and go through the route permit process. That was why it was important for the public to give feedback and suggest alternatives.

The blowback in Lyon County marks a second front of opposition to Xcel’s proposed 175-mile long transmission line. The Renville County Board of Commissioners raised several similar concerns over Xcel’s proposed route in a recent public meeting in that rural county.