The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) unanimously approved Minnesota Power's request for a certificate of need (CN) for the 500 kV Great Northern Transmission Line. The project is designed to bring renewable and carbon-free hydroelectricity from Manitoba, Canada, to Minnesota Power's customers in northeastern Minnesota.
Among the most important approvals needed for the 220-mile transmission line first proposed three years ago, the CN decision follows months of public meetings and hearings and the submission of numerous written comments and testimony.
Minnesota Power needs the line to deliver at least 383 MW of energy to its customers by June 1, 2020, under power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Manitoba Hydro approved by the MPUC in 2012 and 2015.
Minnesota Power estimates the total cost of the project will be between $560 million and $710 million. Minnesota Power is expected to have majority ownership of the transmission line.
The project involves the construction of a new 500 kV transmission line in Minnesota from the U.S.-Canadian border to Minnesota Power's Blackberry Substation near Grand Rapids, Minn.
Various route alternatives are under consideration by the MPUC, but the Great Northern Transmission Line will be approximately 220 miles long and constructed on a 200-foot-wide right-of-way most likely located in the Minnesota counties of Beltrami, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods and Roseau.
Minnesota Power's route permit application is pending under a separate MPUC docket, with hearings scheduled for July and August. A presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy is also required for an international border crossing. Property taxes are estimated to provide $40,000 to $60,000 per mile in annual revenues to local Minnesota governments.
A unique feature of the PPA allows Minnesota Power to use Manitoba Hydro's hydropower system to’store’ wind energy it produces at its Bison Wind Energy Center in south-central North Dakota. Minnesota Power will be able to deliver electric energy from its Bison wind installation to Manitoba Hydro when wind production is high and demand on Minnesota Power's electric system is low. In this way, Manitoba Hydro's system will act as a ‘battery’ for energy produced from Minnesota Power's North Dakota wind farm.