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Transmission line inspections will increase summer electric reliability

Beginning this week, Xcel Energy line crews will begin flying helicopters alongside transmission lines in Minnesota to perform inspections to ensure the electric system remains reliable through the summer cooling months. The inspections also meet federal regulatory compliance requirements to secure a reliable electric system.

The crews will identify potential trouble spots along these lines or structural issues that need to be addressed and repaired. Crews will also look for encroachment issues, such as buildings on or near right of ways or trees growing too close to transmission lines. The inspection work is expected to take three to four weeks.

In Minnesota, crews will be inspecting lines on the Interstate 94 corridor from St. Cloud to Monticello and along the Interstate 694 and Interstate 494 loop in the Twin Cities metro area. In the coming weeks, crews will also perform inspections in Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We inspect transmission lines either from the ground or air," said Dan Schilling, senior operations manager at Xcel Energy. "Helicopter inspections give us an opportunity to take a closer look at the lines and see a fairly close, birdseye view to identify repairs we may need to make to help ensure reliability of the grid."

Helicopters will fly within 50 feet of transmission lines at varying speeds. At times the helicopter will hover near infrastructure to perform more detailed inspections. The exact flight schedule is dependent on weather and flying conditions.