Xcel Energy's nearly four-year quest to add more capacity to its power grid in midtown Minneaplis took two steps forward Thursday.
The Public Untilities Commission granted Xcel's "certificate of need" for the Hiawatha Project, a high voltage transmission line.
The PUC also approved the permit for the 1.5-mile route. Two high voltage transmission lines will be buried under 28th Street. The company will also build a new substation at each end — Hiawatha Avenue on the east and Oakland Avenue on the west.
Community groups applauded the decision to bury the lines.
"The first proposal by Xcel was to put the high voltage lines overhead on huge transmission poles right on the Greenway, so we've come a long distance since then," said Paula Maccabee, an attorney representing the Midtown Greenway Coalition, made up of residents, businesses and community groups in south Minneapolis.
Xcel project manager Betty Mirzayi said the company was pleased to move forward with the project.
"Underground along 28th was always on the table from the very beginning, but it was one of the more expensive options," said Mirzayi. "We knew it was really an important public policy decision because it's a well-developed area; it's very diverse and it has a lot of unique characteristics."
Mirzayi noted the company did support the decision to place the lines underground. The Hiawatha will carry 55 megawatts of power, enough to serve 50,000 customers.
"This part of the city continues to show load growth," said Mirzayi.
Burying the lines will add $13 million to construction costs. The total project is estimated to cost $40 million.
In 30 days, Xcel must file a proposal for how the costs will be shared among rate payers. The company will continue to work with community groups on landscape and design plans for the power substations.
Mirzayi estimates construction will take 18 months, and the lines will be operational in 2014.