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Duluth-based utility Minnesota Power has filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) a certificate of need application for the Great Northern Transmission Line.

According to the company, the approximately 240-mile, 500 kV project will link a Manitoba Hydro transmission line at the Canada-U.S. border and carry hydro power from the province of Manitoba, Canada, to a Minnesota Power electric substation on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Minnesota Power says the international transmission interconnection is needed to support delivery of hydro 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 GW. Minnesota Power will own 51% of the Great Northern Transmission Line, while a subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro will own 49%.

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

The utility adds that 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.

“The wind doesn’t always blow at times of peak electric demand,” explains Minnesota Power Chief Operating Officer Brad Oachs. “The Great Northern Transmission Line unlocks a powerful synergy between wind resources in the north central U.S. and flexible Canadian hydropower in northern Manitoba.”

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

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.

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 U.S. 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.

Subject to receipt of permits, Minnesota Power anticipates construction to begin in June 2016 and take approximately 48 months to complete.




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