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Planning commission OKs electrical expansion

WORTHINGTON — Representatives from Great River Energy presented plans to the Nobles County Planning Commission Wednesday night to expand the capacity of four miles of electrical line near the city of Worthington, in Worthington and Lorain townships.

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The planning commission ultimately approved of the plans, but final authorization will be required from the county board.

Great River Energy, based in Maple Grove, operates several miles of 69-kV transmission line in the county. It is proposing to sell a portion of its existing 69-kV line adjacent to Minnesota 60, northeast of Worthington’s No. 2 substation, to Nobles Cooperative Electric, and then rebuild a new 115-kV line. That new line would extend from the Worthington Public Utilities east substation east along 250th Street for one mile and then north to meet up with a 69-kV line at the intersection of 220th Street and Roberts Avenue, northeast of the airport.

The decision to upgrade the lines follows work Worthington Public Utilities completed recently on the north side of Worthington to also upgrade its lines to 115-kV capacity between the east and west substations.

“It provides better reliability and more draw off the line,” Great River Energy Senior Field Representative Dale Aukee said Wednesday night of the upgrade. Eventually, Great River Energy plans to increase capacity on other lines in the county, although Aukee said that is “still 10 to 15 years down the line.”

Due to the power line location, the planning commission set two conditions on the permit request. All federal, state and local Federal Aviation Administration airport restrictions must be complied with, and all appropriate permits must be obtained prior to construction.

Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith said the electric utility completed an environmental assessment for the project, which was approved in August. Also, the county’s Joint Jurisdictional Committee heard the request prior to Wednesday night’s planning commission meeting, and that committee also approved the request with the same conditions.

Construction is planned for the fall of 2014, and would tie the new 115-kV line in with the 115 kV line owned by Worthington Public Utilities. Aukee said he has already talked with the city engineer regarding the project and vowed to work with the airport.

“If we maintain the existing heights and location, (the city) would not have a concern,” Aukee said. “We will work closely with them and the FAA.”

The existing 69-kV line was constructed in the early 1940s, during which time landowners along the line granted easements for the project. Aukee said there are plans to seek new easements from landowners to ensure buildings are not constructed or trees planted within a determined distance from the lines.

Great River Energy will pay landowners for the easements, which he said are traditionally 50 feet on either side of the power line. In this case, the utility may not need as large of an easement, considering that blowout of the lines on a windy day would be approximately 20 to 30 feet. Aukee said townships will also be compensated if there is any damage to rural roads during the construction project.

The upgraded transmission lines will be strung on wooden 70- to 80-foot-tall poles, with lines spanning 250 to 400 feet between each pole. The decision to use wooden poles is primarily due to cost, said Aukee, who added that wood poles are $5,000 to $10,000 each while steel poles cost $25,000 to $30,000 each.

As for the option to put the lines underground, Aukee said it really isn’t practical for lower voltage line and is at least 10 times more expensive.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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