Minnesota Power line approved to link Canadian hydro and storage to Midwest wind
- The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) unanimously approved the route permit for Minnesota Power’s 500kV Great Northern Transmission Line which will deliver Manitoba Hydro hydroelectric power to Minnesota and U.S. wind generation to Canada.
- Minnesota Power estimates the cost of the 224 mile line at $560 million to $720 million. With the MPUC approval, the only regulatory barrier left is a presidential permit to cross the international border — the same hurdle that tripped up the Keystone XL pipeline.
- The line will deliver 383 MW of hydropower beginning in June 2020 under a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Manitoba Hydro, advancing Minnesota Power’s Energy Forward energy mix diversification plan that has already taken the U.S. utility from 95% coal in 2005 to 25% renewables in 2015.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Minnesota Power line in January and the AP reports that the utility expects a presidential permit in March or April. Building is scheduled for early 2017. Minnesota Power will be majority partner in construction and ownership.
The line will allow both the Minnesota and Manitoba utilities to use baseload hydropower to balance the variability of wind from Minnesota Power’s Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota. The U.S. utility can more effectively use the wind on its system by sending excess capacity to Manitoba Hydro. The Canadian utility can then temporarily back off its hydropower generation by decreasing the amount of water flowing through its turbines.
The PPA also allows Minnesota Power to access Manitoba's pumped hydro storage. The U.S. utility’s wind generation from the Bison project can be used to pump water behind the Canadian utility’s dams, where it can be released on demand to recover the stored energy.
The more than 30 transmission lines connecting the U.S. and Canada allowed 60 Canadian companies to deliver 58.4 TWh of electricity to the U.S. in 2014, about 1.6% of U.S. demand and about 10% of Canadian generation.
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