Xcel Energy has kicked off plans to build a roughly $500 million, 140-mile power line in Minnesota, one of the state's largest transmission projects in recent years.

The power line, which Xcel has dubbed the "Minnesota Energy Connection," would host several new wind and solar farms as it runs from Becker in the north to Lyon County in the south.

"The purpose of this line is to unlock renewable energy from a very renewable rich jurisdiction — wind and solar both," said Michael Lamb, Xcel's senior vice president for transmission.

Minneapolis-based Xcel, Minnesota's largest electricity producer, proposed the power line about a year ago. Later this year, Xcel expects to start filing for state permits needed to build the line. Xcel ratepayers would eventually pay for it in their monthly bills.

If the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approves the project, Lamb estimates it would be completed by 2027 to 2028. The regulatory, engineering and construction process for a large new power line is a long one.

This week, Xcel started contacting landowners and "stakeholders" — local governments, environmental groups and others impacted by the power line. Before determining the line's final route, Xcel said it expects to work with landowners and stakeholders through this year and much of next.

Xcel can use eminent domain if it can't work out deals with landowners.

The power line would use Xcel's current grid interconnections at its massive Sherco power complex in Becker. Sherco's three coal-fired generators are slated to be shut down between 2023 and 2030.

The 345-kilovolt, double-circuited line would be 120 to 140 miles long, depending on its exact route. It would terminate near an Xcel substation in the Marshall area.

Xcel last year also began floating plans for a new gas-fired "peaker" power plant at the line's terminus in Lyon County. Peaker plants are designed to operate only when power demand is high and the grid is stressed.

The new power line is not contingent on building the gas plant, Lamb said. And environmental groups have opposed any new fossil fuel power plants in the state.

The power line would accommodate about 2,000 megawatts of new renewable power in Minnesota and should be able to serve seven to 15 new wind and solar farms depending on their sizes.

However, since its capacity is essentially already booked, the new line would not likely alleviate transmission congestion plaguing southern Minnesota.

Already, wind turbines have been increasingly shut off temporarily because of a lack of power line capacity.

Xcel's new Becker-to-Lyon County power line could be the first of several major transmission projects in Minnesota.

The operator of the Midwestern power grid, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), is expected next week to approve $10 billion in new power line projects. MISO is a nonprofit that plans power lines but allocates them to power line owners, such as Xcel.

Lamb said that Xcel expects to be allocated transmission projects in Minnesota and Wisconsin worth $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion. Those projects, which would also be paid for by ratepayers, would require PUC approval.

The MISO projects, if approved by state regulators, would likely be completed in the late 2020s, Lamb said.