MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Xcel Energy is asking drivers on Interstate 94 to keep their eyes on the road. Starting on Tuesday, crews will begin using a helicopter to string wires between Monticello and St. Cloud.
“We are building more than 700 miles of new transmission line in Minnesota and three other states,” said Tim Carlsgaard, Xcel Energy’s CapX2020 spokesman.
The choppers will install high-voltage transmission lines on 150-foot power poles for 28 miles starting Tuesday afternoon. The chopper will be used until October.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Edgar Linares Reports
“It’s a little faster than having equipment in the fields,” said Carlsgaard. “By not having equipment on people’s property, it’s less impact on their farmland, which is a good thing.”
It’s part of a major project called CapX2020. There are four CapX2020 projects that work with 11 utilities. The projects are designed to increase reliability, address future growth and provide access for renewable energy. The cost is estimated at $2 million per mile.
“We haven’t had a major transmission build up like this for more than 30 years in the upper Midwest,” said Carlgaard. “The system is need of an upgrade.”
Carlsgaard said a month ago Xcel Energy hit new peak demand records after a week-long hot streak in Minnesota.
The chopper will not be the only thing making noise. Crews will use “implosive connectors” to weld cables together. Carlsgaard said it sounds like a 12-gauge shotgun blast or a firework exploding in mid-air.
Spectators could also see sparks or smoke. That’s why they’re telling drivers to focus on to the road.
“Our biggest concern is the safety of motorists traveling along I-94,” said Carlsgaard. “Seventy-five percent of motorists driving along 94 are not local. That’s why we’re trying to get the word out.”