- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved construction of the U.S. section of Minnesota Power’s Great Northern 883 MW capacity transmission line from Manitoba to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
- The 500-kilovolt, 220-mile link of the project, which it is estimated will cost between $560 million and $710 million, will connect Manitoba Hydro generation into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) that serves parts of 15 states and Manitoba.
- The line, being built in partnership with Manitoba Hydro but with Minnesota Power holding majority ownership, is scheduled to go into service by June 2020 and fulfill a power purchase agreement between the two utilities by delivering 383 MW of Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric power to Minnesota Power customers.
The Great Northern line has been controversial in the upper Midwest because renewables activists believe the hydropower’s impact could be diminished if the line is used to deliver coal-generated electricity. Minnesota Power argues it wants Canadian hydropower to balance the variability of its growing wind energy portfolio. It also wants to deliver excess wind to Manitoba for storage as hydropower.
The list of regulatory approvals still needed is impressive. Minnesota Power is working on a federal Presidential Permit required because the project crosses an international border. The Department of Energy and state agencies must still issue environmental approvals. The Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended approval of the Certificate of Need and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule on that by May. MISO has approved the line. Manitoba Hydro is working toward the necessary Canadian regulatory approvals.