How to replace the Xcel Hiawatha project, without spending $15 million

Let's just change our bulbs instead...

This post has been updated to account for my bad math.  Always make sure to check your Excel formulas!  Thanks Scott!

According to Xcel, energy conservation alone cannot meet their forecasted demand for power in Southwest Minneapolis and they must build a new power line over the Midtown Greenway.  Quoted in a Southwest Journal article, and in their Project Need documents submitted to the Minnesota PUC, Xcel claims that they forecast an increased demand of 50 megawatts by 2018 in the “focused study area” (see map on page D2 – 7 of the link above).  I think I can save them about $14.5 $12.5 million dollars and a lot of public meetings.

I did some quick figuring using GIS and the 2000 census figures, and the “focused study area” contains roughly 94,000 housing units.  This seems to make sense given that this area encompasses some of the most dense parts of the city.  If Xcel were to take a proactive approach to conservation, perhaps going door to door and volunteering to install new light bulbs for example, could they make a dent?  YES!  They could effectively eliminate the need for the Hiawatha project!  In fact, if they installed ten new CFL bulbs in one tenth 70 percent of the housing units in the study area, they would more than offset the forecasted growth in demand.  And it would only cost about $360,000 $2.5 million.  Even if they hired five full-time installers to do the job, it would still only cost around $600,000 $2.75 million.  Xcel could save about $14.5 $12.25 million, and the neighbors could go back to worrying about the future of NRP.  Check my math.  Is it really that easy? Apparently not since I flubbed it the first time.

Perhaps they’ve already factored in some type of conservation efforts, but the forecasted growth chart in the above document doesn’t seem to support that.  And even if they have, if you can get this much effect by simply replacing light bulbs, imagine what you could do if you spent the rest of the $15 milion on conservation.  Hopefully the EIS will include an independent estimate of just that.

5 thoughts on “How to replace the Xcel Hiawatha project, without spending $15 million

  1. Your math is off… you seem to be multiplying in the number of bulbs per home twice. Plus, you’re assuming that all of those incandescent bulbs were 100W rather than the very common 60W, and that they’re all on 24 hours a day.

  2. Electric cars?

    The demand will grow inevitably, and is probably underestimated if we use electric cars (e.g. plug-in hybrids) at a reasonable rate. The Greenway will have overhead lines anyway if you put in a streetcar, so this is really no worse, maybe you can make the case to underground the cables, but that will cost more. Cities require robust infrastructure networks, and the greenway is a really nice right-of-way for one of those. (If you are a bicyclist you should be looking ahead or down, not up, anyway).

  3. Scott: thanks for the checking the math, the formulas were off. These figures do assume 100 W bulbs, which could be adjusted. The 50 MW need is a rating of capacity (as I understand it), not watt-hours, so there is no assumption necessary about how long the bulbs are on.

    David: you make a good point about new transportation infrastructure. If we need electrical distribution to power our cars (which seems likely), the demand will likely grow. However, I don’t see any reference to this in the project need documents. This post is more of a thought exercise about conservation rather than a true exploration of all the potential needs on our electrical grid. In my opinion, Xcel could be much more proactive in pursuing residential energy savings with it’s customers, to everyone’s benefit. When they only site a voluntary program to turn off air conditioners, that doesn’t make me think they have explored every option, especially not every option that could be had for what they will spend on installing the line (above or below ground). Aesthetics is a whole other issue that I’m not sure I want to comment on now.

  4. OK, change “on 24 hours a day” to “on at the same time” — it’s pretty rare that I have 10 bulbs on at once. And at 70%, you’ll probably run into quite a few households that already are using CFLs.

    I agree that there’s probably more conservation that could be done than they’re actively investigating, and CFLs are a part of that, but I don’t fault them for wanting to have the infrastructure in place in case conservation can’t quite keep up with growth (not just demand from electric cars, but also a potential influx of people from the suburbs due to rising transportation costs).

    Finding a way to get it underground is probably the best realistic outcome.

  5. So now they say that it’s a projected 50MW demand. Hmmmmmmm… in their 2007 Biennial Transmission Plan, they said 100MW. That says that 50MW of demand has already disappeared. How much more difficult to make this second 50MW disappear? And for a 50MW claimed need, why would they need a double circuited ACSS 795kCmil conductor ?

    Here’s a link to primary document — scroll down to “Section 7 of Transmission Plan”

    Here’s what that transmission plan said was up, they’re planning a LOT more than just what’s called the “Hiawatha Project.”

    Inadequacy. Loading on Xcel Energy’s 12.4 kV distribution system in south Minneapolis has reached levels where numerous single contingencies can lead to overloads elsewhere in the system. Many of the distribution substations served by the south Minneapolis transmission loop have either reached their capacities or will in the near future, as Xcel Energy is forecasting 100 MW of load growth in south Minneapolis over the next ten years due to redevelopment in many areas of the city.

    Alternatives. Initial investigation and scoping discussions have led to the development of three potential alternatives:

    (1) Construct a new 115 kV line from a new Hiawatha Substation along Highway 55 to a new Oakland Substation near Lake Street and I-35W. The line would then continue south to a new Highway 62 Substation near Highway 62 and Nicollet Avenue. The line would continue to its final termination at a new Penn Lake Substation near I-494 and Sheridan Avenue.

    (2) Similar to Option 1, but the final 115 kV line would stretch from Highway 62 Substation to the existing Wilson Substation near I-494 and Wentworth Avenue.

    (3) Construct two smaller 115 kV loops with new 115 kV lines running from Hiawatha to Oakland to Elliot Park and a second loop from Penn Lake to Highway 62 to Wilson.

    Their claimed “need” doesn’t add up to what they want to do.

    Oh, and then there’s that 345kV link from a new Hwy. 280 sub to the new Hiawatha sub. Here’s an “artist’s conception” map of what the whole thing looks like — Hwy. 280 to Hiawatha sub to Oakland sub to new Hwy. 62 sub to Wilson sub:

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