Basin Electric board approves nearly a half billion dollars in new transmission construction in western North Dakota

In a major effort to maintain reliability for members, Basin Electric directors approved major transmission line and substation construction work at their May meeting. The projects will cost nearly a half billion dollars to complete.

Three major projects are moving forward: the East Loop 345-kilovolt transmission project (Editor's note: The project is now known as the Leland Olds-to-Tande project), the Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge 345-kV transmission line, and the East Fork 345- and 115-kV substation.

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

Bobby Nasset, Basin Electric supervisor of Civil Engineering, said the East Loop 345-kV transmission 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 345/115kV 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.

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.

As long as progress is on schedule, Nasset said both the East Loop project and Roundup-to-Kummer Ridge line are planned to be energized in late 2025.

The third major project is the East Fork 345/115-kV substation, which will be located near Wheelock, North Dakota. Nathan Miller, Basin Electric senior electrical engineer, said that substation should be energized in 2024. “It is determined that continued load growth in the Williston (North Dakota) area means an additional substation is necessary to keep power reliable in the region,” Miller said. “This substation will intersect the existing 345-kv Judson-to-Tande transmission line, and gives us a new point of delivery for Mountrail Williams Electric’s 115-kV system.”

Jeremy Severson, Basin Electric manager of Transmission Services, said Southwest Power Pool (SPP) does a needs assessment for their Integrated Transmission Plan. “They are looking at reliability, and economic and policy needs of the system. When they identify those needs, they open up a window that allows stakeholders to submit projects to mitigate those needs on the system,” he said. “From that assessment, SPP compiles a portfolio of projects, and the projects approved by the Basin Electric board in May are ones that came out of that portfolio.”

Because the projects were determined to be necessary through the Integrated Transmission Plan, project costs will be allocated through the regional transmission organization’s highway/byway cost allocation process. That means projects above 300-kV are allocated on a regional basis because they are beneficial to the entire SPP region, and each SPP transmission customer will pay for their load ratio share of the project over its lifetime. Basin Electric accounts for about 6% of the SPP region.

Basin Electric’s board approved each project’s budget to contain a cost variance to account for project uncertainty; for example, the East Loop 345-kV transmission line’s budget is $417.2 million, which includes about $100 million in contingency.

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.

The next steps will be for the Right-of-Way team to contact landowners for survey permission and feedback on preferred routes; in parallel, the Environmental team will develop 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 the construction phase.

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