Officials say the high-voltage electrical transmission line that’s proposed to cut through 220 miles of Nebraska’s Sand Hills region is designed to have a positive impact on the entire state’s power infrastructure.
Mark Becker, spokesman for Nebraska Public Power District, says the upgrade is needed, not because there isn’t enough power but because the current lines can’t carry what’s needed during times of high demand.
“That will benefit all of our customers throughout the state,” Becker says. “It will be another way for electricity to get out to the load centers. We’ve had ice storms in the past that have basically cut off our power lines and we’ve been forced then to buy electicity out of the market at a higher price than what it costs us to generate.”
Some residents in the Sand Hills have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the $350-million project. Becker says NPPD is planning to build sturdy piers in key locations that would eliminate the need to haul in large cranes or heavy cement trucks.
“These would be basically screwed into the ground, 60 to 70 feet, and then we would helicopter in the structures piece by piece,” Becker says. “We want to reduce the amount of damage that would be done during this construction process.”
The Sand Hills region is a “fragile” environment, Becker says, and there will be an impact with this massive project.
“We’re looking at every possible way to minimize that impact,” Becker says. “We’re also working with the University of Nebraska to look at ways for how do we bring the Sand Hills back from any kind of damage we do create.”
The transmission line project is expected to cost more than $350-million, but Becker says Nebraska customers will only be paying for about 7% of that cost. The rest, he says, would be shared by other utilities across the region that are part of the Southwest Power Pool.
The transmission line’s route is still in the “proposal phase,” and the project is in the midst of a 30-day public comment period which runs through mid-December. NPPD has already held 18 open houses on the project across the Sand Hills region and it’s been approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board.