Minnesota Power seeks public need certificate for 500 kV transmission line

ALLETE unit Minnesota Power is seeking a public need certificate for a 500-kV Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line.

The electric utility company filed October 21, with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) a certificate of need application for the nearly 240-mile 500 kV Great Northern Transmission Line, which will link to a Manitoba Hydro transmission line at the Canada-U.S. border, and will carry renewable hydropower from the province of Manitoba, Canada, to a Minnesota Power electric substation on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

The international transmission interconnection is needed to support delivery of hydroelectric energy from Manitoba Hydro to the U.S. from two new generating stations under development in northern Manitoba that will be capable of producing more than 2,000 MW of renewable power.

The Great Northern Transmission Line will facilitate the delivery of at least 750 MW of energy into the U.S. Beginning in June 2020, Minnesota Power will use the line to deliver 250 MW from Manitoba Hydro through a power purchase agreement approved by the MPUC in early 2012.

In addition, the two utilities recently finalized a term sheet outlining how Minnesota Power will purchase additional energy and substantially expand its energy storage opportunities using the new transmission asset.

Minnesota Power will own 51 percent of the Great Northern Transmission Line, while a unit of Manitoba Hydro will own 49 percent. Minnesota Power estimates that construction of the project in the U.S., including substation work, represents an investment ranging from $400 million to $600 million, depending upon final route.

Subject to receipt of permits, construction is anticipated to begin in June 2016 and take about 48 months to complete.

In approving the 250 MW power purchase last year, the MPUC determined that the hydropower resources proposed in the agreement represented the most cost effective way to help meet Minnesota Power’s customers’ future electric needs. An innovative feature of the contract allows Minnesota Power to use Manitoba Hydro’s system to “store” wind energy it produces at its Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota, optimizing the timing and value of power delivery for customers.

In addition to demonstrating need, Minnesota regulatory proceedings will include a route permit process based on public input and feedback which Minnesota Power anticipates filing in early 2014. The international project will also require a Presidential Permit from the Department of Energy. Concurrent with the regulatory processes in Minnesota and the U.S., Manitoba Hydro is proceeding with the necessary regulatory approval processes for the generation and transmission additions in Manitoba.

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