ABOUT THE PROJECT
Q: What is the 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline?
A: NPPD’s 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline will involve the construction of three new 115,000-volt transmission lines in central Nebraska. The new lines will provide electric energy to three NPPD wholesale customers — Niobrara Valley EMC, Loup Valleys RPPD, and Southern Power District to serve the needs of new pumping stations that will be owned by TransCanada.
Q: What is the purpose of the proposed transmission project?
A:TransCanada has announced plans to build a crude oil pipeline through central Nebraska which includes the construction of five pumping stations to move crude oil. The purpose of NPPD’s 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline is to provide electric energy to local electric utilities allowing them to serve three of the five pumping stations. The other two pumping stations are outside the scope of this project.
Q: What is NPPD’s role in this project?
A:Pumping stations use electric motors and require large amounts of electric energy. The Keystone XL Pipeline requires up to 25 megawatts per pumping station, in other words, about the same load as the City of Seward. NPPD provides bulk power to the local electrical distribution utilities to meet their electrical load. NPPD is mandated to provide adequate and reliable power supplies to its customers; therefore, NPPD will construct three new 115,000-volt transmission lines in central Nebraska in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. NPPD will also construct three new transmission substations, one each near Clarks, Ericson, and Stuart, to support interconnecting the new transmission lines. NPPD’s O’Neill transmission substation will also be expanded.
Q: What are the pipelines TransCanada is building through Nebraska?
A: TransCanada plans to build two crude oil pipelines across Nebraska — the Keystone Pipeline currently in service and the Keystone XL Pipeline, now in the planning stage. This transmission line project is designed to support the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Q: Will the pumping stations be an intermittent or steady load?
A: The pumping stations have a good load factor and will be on the vast majority of the time so it will be a fairly steady electric load.
PROJECT COSTS / RATES
Q: What is the cost of the 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline?
A: TransCanada will pay for a large majority of the cost of the 115,000-volt transmission line project, estimated at approximately $49 million, including substation work.
Q: How will the 115 kV Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline affect electric rates for customers served by the local utility serving the pumping station?
A: NPPD provides the transmission service to the local utility which, in turn, serves the TransCanada pumping station directly. Therefore, this project will increase electricity sales for the local utility, providing economic development benefits to all electric consumers in the respective service areas and, therefore, no adverse impact on electric rates.
Q: When will the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Project begin and be completed?
A: Transmission line construction in support for TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline is expected to begin in late 2011 with an estimated in-service date of mid-2012.
Q: When will the routes for the new lines be selected?
A: NPPD announced final routes in September 2010.
LINE ROUTE / OWNERSHIP
Q: Where will the lines be constructed?
A: The three new 115,000-volt transmission lines will total approximately 74 miles in length. The new 115,000-volt (115 kV) lines will run from a substation near Petersburg to a substation near Ericson, approximately 37 miles; from an existing substation in O’Neill to a new substation to be constructed by Niobrara Valley EMC south of Stuart, approximately 28 miles; and from a new substation to be constructed by NPPD south of Clarks to new substation to be constructed by Southern Power District north of Central City, approximately 9 miles.
Q: In populated areas, how will you place the transmission line structures?
A: Routing a new transmission line is an exacting and lengthy process. Many things are taken into consideration. For example, routing engineers look at such factors as number of homes, land use and environmentally-sensitive areas, among others. All these items are considered when determining the proposed route. NPPD is committed to establishing a route that has a minimal impact to property and the environment based upon the aforementioned routing factors.
Q: Will you use H-frames or what type of structure will be used?
A: A combination of H-frame and/or single pole structures will be used.
Q: Will the line be dedicated to serve the TransCanada load only?
A: Yes. At this time, the 115,000-volt transmission lines will be radial (or single line) feeds to the pumping stations and will be dedicated to serving the TransCanada load. However, if there is a need in the future to serve new loads these lines may very well be utilized if they are determined to best provide this service.
Q: What are NPPD’s routing criteria?
A: NPPD looks at a number of criteria (about three dozen) when siting a transmission line. These criteria range from land use to number of and proximity to residences to environmental sensitivities to cultural or historical areas. Public involvement is a key part of the routing process, and feedback from property owners will be gathered for NPPD to consider in determining a final line route. By law, NPPD’s transmission line routes must follow section or half-section lines in agricultural areas unless landowners voluntarily agree to the route crossing other areas.
Q: Who will own the line?
A: NPPD will own the transmission line.
Q: Will the transmission line affect AM/FM radio and antenna TV reception?
A: A transmission line should not cause any type of interference with radio or television reception.
Q: Will you be building a new substation?
A: NPPD will be building a total of three new substations in support of the three transmission lines. One each will be built near Clarks, Ericson, and Stuart. In addition, plans call for NPPD to expand its O’Neill substation. Additionally, NPPD’s Wholesale Partners will also be constructing substations at the pumping station sites.
Q: What makes up a substation?
A: A substation is a facility made up of circuit breakers, switching equipment and control equipment. Transformers are also a common component of substations and will be needed in the substations at the pumping station sites. There are no generators.
Q: What is the footprint of a typical substation?
A: A typical 115,000 volt substation usually requires from two to four acres of land.
Q: How tall does a substation stand?
A: The majority of substation structures are under 25 feet, but certain structures, including line terminals could be 50 to 60 feet tall. When the design is completed, the height requirements will be determined.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT PROCESS
Q: What is the process NPPD uses to work with landowners?
A: First, NPPD develops a Study Area for each project and presents it to the public. This is the entire area that will be studied for routing the transmission lines. Once NPPD reviews the study area and the public comments, Corridors further defining specific areas where lines can be routed will be established and public meetings will be held to allow public input. After that, NPPD will narrow the options down to Alternate Routes including a Preferred Line Route. A public hearing (required by Nebraska statute) will be held to present a proposed route, and NPPD will invite specific landowners along the proposed route to attend. After a 30-day public comment period, NPPD will announce a Final Route and begin meeting with affected landowners. Surveys of proposed easement areas will be conducted as will property valuation appraisals. NPPD strives for fair and respectful treatment of affected landowners. NOTE: The process above is typical for large projects, but the steps may be combined as determined appropriate for various projects resulting in fewer public meetings.
Q: How do you determine the study area?
A: A study area is a mapped area within whose boundaries an acceptable number of reasonable and feasible routing alternatives can be identified. The area includes the terminations for the transmission line project as well as an area large enough so that minimally constrained routing alternatives or segments can be identified yet small enough to be feasibly studied in detail. It must be an area that is defensible to the public and regulatory agencies against identifying reasonable alternatives outside of the selected area. A number of factors are considered in the establishment of a study area including physical, land use constraints, topographical concerns, sensitive environmental features etc. A study area boundary can change during the project if new data is discovered or due to public concern. That is one of the reasons we have public involvement meetings to review the study area.
Q. Has an environmental impact study been conducted for the project?
A. Specific triggers require the preparation of an environmental impact assessment in accordance with provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Specifically, an environmental evaluation is needed under NEPA if a project involves crossing federally managed or owned lands, if federal funding is used for the project, or if the project will require a major federal decision (major permit). At this time, we have not completed this type of environmental impact study and we do not believe it will be required. However, a Project Environmental Report will be completed which will provide details of environmental issues considered as part of the project.
Q: Did the routing and environmental analysis process for the pipeline include the transmission lines?
A: TransCanada is required to complete a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline project. Within the scope of the pipeline EIS, secondary or indirect impacts must also be considered, if known. Such secondary impacts include development of infrastructure such as utilities to support a project. TransCanada must include discussion of the possible impacts of the transmission lines within their project EIS as secondary impacts. This information cannot be included until final transmission line routes are determined. Therefore, the two projects are separate, but connected. The transmission line projects themselves do not require a federal environmental report, but NPPD conducts environmental analysis for the transmission lines as part of the route selection process.
Q: If my property ends up in the final line route, how much land will NPPD need to construct the line?
A: NPPD will need to acquire an “Easement for Electric Transmission Line” from each of the affected property owners. When siting a transmission line, NPPD typically follows section or half-section boundary lines. For this project, the right-of-way width needed will depend on the structure type that is used, and should range from a minimum of 30’ to a maximum of 50’ on each side of the centerline of the transmission line.
Q: What is the size of a structure’s footprint and the distance between structures?
A: If two-pole, H-frame structures are used, the footprint of a typical structure would be approximately 16 ft. from the outside of the two poles with the distance between structures approximately 700 ft. If single pole construction is used, the pole footprint would be approximately 1.5 ft. with a distance between poles of approximately 350 ft.
Q: Will I still be able to use my property near the lines?
A: The only limitations within the right-of-way are to restrict activities such as construction of buildings, grain bins, planting of trees, hay stacks or dirt mounds due to public safety concerns and to ensure the safe operation of the transmission line. NPPD will occupy the area where the transmission line structures are physically located; however, property owners will be able to resume normal agricultural operations in the unoccupied areas.
Q: How do you arrive at the payment method used for easements?
A: NPPD purchases easements to build and maintain transmission lines. NPPD will utilize the services of independent appraisers to provide property valuations and other pertinent information necessary to determine easement compensation. Owners of rural property will be compensated 80 percent of the appraised land value of the easement area. In addition to the easement payment, a structure payment will be paid to those landowners who have structures located on their property. The structure payment will vary depending on the type of structure used.
In urban areas, appraisers will view properties to determine the impact of the line on the property. The appraisers will consider the easement location, easement rights to be obtained, and the number and location of potential structures. The appraisers will then determine the appropriate compensation for each individual property. In addition to easement compensation, NPPD will pay for any damages that may occur during construction.
Following is more detail about structure payments, as applicable:
Structure Payment – 115,000 volts
- Single pole – $100 per pole
- 2-pole H-frame located in crop or hay land – $500 per 2-pole H-frame
- 2-pole H-frame located in pasture land – $250 per 2-pole H-frame
- Urban area – Determined by an independent appraiser
- Payment for any special considerations on a case-by-case basis
Q: What access to the structures will be required both during and after construction?
A: If your property is included in the route of the new transmission line, access will be needed during three different time frames: prior to construction, during construction and for future inspection and maintenance.
Prior to construction, NPPD will ask you to sign a “Right-of-Entry” document requesting permission to conduct initial design work such as surveying and inspecting for any environmental issues. During the easement acquisition process, right-of-way agents will work with landowners to inform them of the project schedule and determine the best access routes. Following construction, NPPD regularly inspects its lines by means of periodic air and annual ground patrols. If re-entry for maintenance work is necessary, it is NPPD’s practice to contact the property owner prior to construction/maintenance activities. The exception may be under emergency conditions when time constraints may not allow this to happen; however, contact will be made as soon as possible.
Q: How will NPPD settle any property damages due to construction?
A: Landowners are reimbursed for any property repairs needed due to work associated with the line both during and after construction. Payments for these repairs are made after review by the landowner/tenant and NPPD.
SYSTEM RELIABILITY / OTHER NPPD PROJECTS
Q: Do you have enough generation to serve the new TransCanada electric load?
A: Yes, NPPD has sufficient generation capacity to serve this additional electric load.
Q: How do they align with the respective city electric service?
A: Addition of these transmission lines to serve TransCanada should not impact the existing electric services in the nearby communities.