Our Power

Minnkota completes Fargo power upgrades

Minnkota Power Cooperative has wrapped up a major conversion project to prepare for the heightened electricity needs of the Fargo-West Fargo community.

By

Kevin Fee

on

March 25, 2019

When Ryan Brorby started working at Minnkota Power Cooperative in March 2015, he didn't leave all his work at engineering firm Ulteig behind.

He designed the Minnkota Veterans substation while at Ulteig and then took an engineering job with Minnkota prior to the building of the substation. At Minnkota, Brorby oversaw the construction and project management pieces of the project.

“I got to see that project all the way through, which was rewarding," Brorby said.

Veterans was the first of a multiphase $35 million Minnkota conversion project – uprating the system from 69 kilovolts (kV) to 115 kV in the Fargo area. Brorby followed the overall conversion to the finish line, too, serving as lead for the one of the substations being uprated from 69 kV to 115 kV.

The milestone conversion project was completed March 5.

“We've situated ourselves so we should be able to handle things for the next 50 years within the areas of those substations that we serve," said Wayne Lembke, Minnkota engineering manager.

In early 2014, the planning group at Minnkota conducted a study on potentially converting the 69-kV system in the Fargo area to 115 kV. This was initiated due to the increasing loads for Cass County Electric Cooperative in Fargo and West Fargo and in order to provide better reliability in those areas.

In late 2014, engineering moved forward with the design of the Veterans substation and four miles of 115-kV double circuit transmission line from the Stanley switch to the Veterans substation. This phase of the project was completed in 2015.

Crews lower in a new transformer for the Veterans substation in Fargo during 2015 construction work.

In the next three-plus years, Minnkota ultimately built an addition at the Grager, Frontier and Maple River substations, along with a line rebuild to double-circuit 115 kV/69 kV from Maple River to Frontier. This all culminated with a final energization to 115 kV.  

“We converted a single-circuit 69-kV line to a much larger line that's capable of handling two circuits of 115 kV," said Grant Gunderson, who was senior manager of power delivery engineering during most of the project's planning and construction phases. “In the near term, one side is going to be operated at 115 kV and the other side is going to be operated at 69 kV."

The Minnkota team worked through the cold of this year's winter to put the final touches on the Frontier substation on the southern end of West Fargo.

Future work in the Fargo area will be based on load growth and could entail adding second transformers at Veterans and Grager if/when additional capacity is required. Those substations are already equipped with larger transformers than Minnkota's standard substations.

Minnkota is now in position to provide the reliable power needed into the future in the Fargo area with room to expand if the market dictates. A big piece of the load growth in the Veterans Boulevard area is the new Sanford Medical Center Fargo. Cass County Electric added several thousand members in the last few years – the largest of which is the Sanford facility.

The 115-kV project stretches from the southern outskirts of Fargo-West Fargo (Frontier and Stanley substations) all the way north to the Maple River substation.

“The way that area was initially built, as a rural electric cooperative, we were serving the rural areas," Lembke said. “But now those rural areas are developing, and we had to build the infrastructure to support that."

Now Minnkota's senior manager of power delivery operations, Gunderson also said that since Grager and Veterans substations are in an urban setting, Minnkota installed decorative, black powder-coated extruded fences around them. There also is significant landscaping upgrades from what you would see at a more rural substation.

“Other utilities have looked at our fences in Fargo and have duplicated that," Brorby said.

Brorby said the conversion project went smoothly and according to plan.

“It was fun to do a project of that magnitude," he said.

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