Adding major transmission infrastructure in western North Dakota

Think of an interstate highway system. Drive through the middle of North Dakota and things are pretty simple. You’ve got a straight road with on ramps and off ramps every few miles to get traffic to where it needs to go.

Once you get to a city like Minneapolis, however, you have many more on ramps and off ramps and intersecting highways. As population grows and traffic intensifies, the highway system must grow with it.

Now think of the electric transmission grid. Where there is increased people and businesses, and therefore more meters on the system using more electricity, more infrastructure like roads and off ramps are needed.

That is the situation in western North Dakota. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) conducted an Integrated Transmission Planning study and in 2021 determined the need for extensive new transmission infrastructure in the area.

“The two areas that saw a major need for infrastructure were the Bakken region as well as the Permian Basin down in the New Mexico/Texas area due to the load growth both areas are forecasted to have,” Jeremy Severson, Basin Electric manager of Transmission Services, says. “They saw reliability concerns due to voltage and loading. These projects will strengthen the reliability of the system and provide a good base for load growth to come.”

Severson says the SPP Integrated Transmission Planning study is done annually. “It looks at the five and 10 year reliability, economic, and policy needs of the system. When they identify those needs, they open up a window to allow stakeholders to submit projects that would mitigate those needs in the system. SPP then puts together a portfolio of projects … which is ultimately approved by the SPP board of directors,” Severson says.

In that portfolio of projects, three major transmission projects were identified within Basin Electric’s service area. In May, Basin Electric’s board approved the projects to address the growing need for reliable power. The cost to construct the projects totals about $500 million.

“The projects are cost-allocated via what’s called the ‘highway/byway’ within the tariff. That means anything 300-kilovolt (kV) or higher is cost-allocated on a regional basis,” Severson says. “These projects were found to be necessary for the SPP system, and therefore the cost is spread out amongst all members of SPP.”

western North Dakota transmission buildout
Map depicting general location of transmission buildout in western North Dakota.

A TEAM EFFORT

Several areas at Basin Electric are involved in the planning and construction of these projects.

The Transmission Services team works on project feasibility and approval through the SPP processes. The engineering team develops the detailed scope of work and leads the design efforts for the projects. The routing and design phase includes critical roles from Basin Electric’s Right-of-Way, Environmental and Permitting, and surveying staff. Project information is organized by Basin Electric’s GIS (geospatial information systems) team.


NEXT STEPS

Basin Electric’s Right-of-Way team has begun contacting landowners for survey permission and feedback on preferred routes; in parallel, the Environmental team is developing a permit application for the final route to submit to the North Dakota Public Service Commission. After all easements and permits are obtained, the project will begin construction.

PROJECT SNAPSHOTS

East Loop 345-kV transmission project:

Bobby Nasset, Basin Electric supervisor of Civil Engineering, says the East Loop 345-kV transmission project (now known as the Leland Olds-to-Tande project) is the largest of the three projects.

The transmission line will be roughly 175-miles long from Leland Olds Station (near Stanton, North Dakota) to Tande substation (near Tioga, North Dakota) and includes a new intermediate 345/115-kV substation to provide a new 115-kV delivery point for Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, a Basin Electric Class C member headquartered in Williston, North Dakota.

The project also includes the reconstruction of the 345-kV substation at Leland Olds Station, which is part of ongoing aging infrastructure work.

Construction will take about 18 months once all easements and permits have been obtained. The project is planned to be energized in late 2025.

Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge 345-kV transmission line:

The Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge 345-kV transmission line will run between two existing substations north of Killdeer, North Dakota. The 35-mile transmission line will be built through challenging terrain, and several route options are being considered. The line is planned to be energized in late 2025.

East Fork 345/115-kV substation:

The East Fork 345/115-kV substation, which will be located near Wheelock, North Dakota, should be energized in 2024. The official name for the project is yet to be determined.

Nathan Miller, Basin Electric senior electrical engineer, says this substation will intersect the existing 345-kv Judson-to-Tande transmission line and add a new point of delivery for Mountrail Williams Electric’s 115-kV system.

Neset-to-Northshore transmission project:

Another transmission line, approved in 2020, began construction in the fall of 2021.

The 230-kV Neset-to-Northshore transmission project includes a new 230-kV substation named Northshore and a 27-mile long transmission line from the existing Neset substation to the proposed Northshore substation.

Construction is scheduled to finish in November with energization complete by the end of the year.

The project was previously identified by SPP as required to meet reliability standards and projected electrical demands.

Neset-to-Northshore.jpg
Map depicting Neset-to-Northshore transmission project

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