Beginning Friday, June 5, an Xcel Energy transmission patrol crew will begin flying a helicopter alongside transmission lines in Minnesota to perform inspections and help 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.

Inspections on all Xcel Energy transmission lines in Minnesota will take about 8-10 weeks, depending on weather conditions. They will identify potential trouble spots along these lines or structural issues that need to be addressed and repaired. They will also look for encroachment issues, such as buildings on or near right of ways, or trees growing too close to transmission lines.

‘We inspect transmission lines either from the ground or air,” said Ralph Melgard, transmission line maintenance coordinator, Xcel Energy. “Helicopter inspections give us an opportunity to take a closer look at the lines and see a fairly close, birds-eye view to identify repairs we may need to make to help ensure the 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.

Xcel Energy operates more than 7,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines in the Upper Midwest.


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