Transmission Lines in SE SD

Transmission Line Networks

Two Large Transmission Lines on Drawing Board for SE South Dakota

Article from DRA member newsletter, Action Review, Volume 26 Issue 1

Some parts of our nation seem to be saturated in light by an endless stream sunshine, where solar panels lie absorbing the sun like thin, black sponges. Other regions of our country are perched on vast resources of energy-rich oil and coal. South Dakota lies not on such a plentiful resource, but below one: the endlessly circulating circuits of the wind, which happen to travel with special strength on their silent journey above our state. In fact, South Dakota is the fifth richest state in terms of its wind energy resources.


Naturally, the first image that comes to mind when most people think of wind energy is wind turbines, but before the energy captured by those turbines can be useful there must first be transmission lines to carry the energy. South Dakota is currently lacking the transmission lines necessary to take full advantage of our vast wind resources.


Two transmission lines are currently on the drawing board in north eastern South Dakota. The first connects the Big Stone South Substation to the Ellendale Substation in North Dakota; this line is called the Big Stone South to Ellendale, or BSSE (referring to the names of the substations, not the direction of the route!). This line is in its early stages of routing and is exploring multiple corridors as routes. (The first public meetings have been posted – see announcement)


The second line is called Big Stone South to Brookings and would connect the Big Stone South Substation to the Brookings County Substation. The Big Stone South to Brookings County line is a 345 kV transmission line that would run for 70 miles. It is targeting to be in-service in 2017. It does have a proposed route which can be viewed online at Xcel Energy and Otter Tail Power are jointly developing the line, with Xcel serving as the lead developer.


The line is destined to play a big part in the development of South Dakota’s wind energy development as well as add to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio. One of the express purposes of the transmission project is to “reliably move mandated renewable energy from the Dakotas” (MISO MulitValue Project Report, Dec. 2011, p. 31) to hubs out east.


Upgrading our transmission network brings many benefits: it spurs economic development, makes our grid more efficient by cutting congestion and eliminating the need for storage, and pushes us along to a more sustainable energy system. But there may be some trade-offs as well. In principle, the use of existing right-of-ways is maximized in this sort of project in order to avoid further disruption of private property, but sometimes the establishment of new right-of-ways is necessary.


The transmission line’s final route will have to be approved by the PUC, but first they will have to take in to consideration input from all parties concerned including land owners. There will be opportunities to input on the lines. Organizers at Dakota Rural Action are in process of starting dialogues with potentially effected land owners. Feel free to reach DRA with any concerns about the project.


Meanwhile, some state legislators are currently working to pass Senate Bill 195, that would allow developers to collect a full refund of contractor’s excise taxes incurred for wind farms, and 25 percent of the state sales tax in an effort to attract development to our state, so wind development may indeed play a large role the next chapter of development for the Dakotas and the region.


By Robin Nelson,


Big Stone South Info


Open House Meetings for BSSE – Monday, Feb 25 – Wednesday, Feb 27


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