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Region's biggest power line expansion in 4 decades celebrates completion

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Nearly a dozen utility companies are energized by the completion of a power line project that's providing the biggest boost to the power grid in Minnesota since the 1970s.

Organizers of the decade-long effort known as CapX2020 held ribbon-cutting ceremonies near St. Cloud and Fargo Monday to celebrate completion of the project's two biggest sections.

The utility companies say the new power lines mean electrical service will be more reliable. They'll also carry more wind power from southwestern Minnesota and the Dakotas to the Twin Cities.

The Star Tribune reports the five new power lines that make up CapX2020 cost a total of $2.1 billion, which is being covered by ratepayers.

Two of the lines are still being constructed in South Dakota and Wisconsin, but the Minnesota portion of the project is now virtually finished.

Minnesota's two biggest utility companies, Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, spearheaded the project.

They powered up the two biggest lines more than a month ago. One extends from Fargo to Monticello, the other from Brookings, South Dakota to a substation south of the Twin Cities.

Valley News Live attended the ceremony outside of Fargo.

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Boosters of the expansion include advocates of wind energy. Beth Soholt of the group Wind on the Wires says in CapX2020's announcement that the project provides a "farm to market road for wind developers" who have often struggled to get space on the limited capacity of the existing power grid.

One reason for the four-decade gap between major power line expansions is that the projects are often unpopular with landowners. An Xcel Energy executive tells the Fargo Forum utilities learned from past failures that projects must be as transparent as possible.

A Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in March clarified that where landowners were unwilling to host the power lines, utility companies had to purchase the property for the project to move ahead.

CapX2020 produced a video offering a glimpse of the construction process.

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