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    Nearly $1B transmission line proposed in northern Minnesota


    August 1, 2022 - Finance & Commerce

     

      Minnesota Power is laying the groundwork for a planned $970 million, 150-mile electric transmission line in northern and central Minnesota, a project that the utility says is necessary to make the grid more reliable and resilient.

      Minnesota Power, a utility division of ALLETE Inc. and Great River Energy, said Monday that the double-circuit 345-kV transmission line would run from Minnesota Power’s Iron Range Substation in Itasca County to Great River Energy’s Benton County Substation.

      Workers will also replace an existing Great River Energy transmission line from Benton County to Sherburne County. A new Sherburne County substation will be built as part of a separate project, Minnesota Power said.

      The region’s grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, approved the joint Minnesota Power/Great River Energy project Monday. MISO signed off on 18 projects in all across the Midwest. Six of those, including the Minnesota Power line, are in the Upper Midwest.

      In early August, Minnesota Power plans to file a “notice of intent” with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to “construct, own and maintain” the transmission line, according to a press release.

      Next steps, beginning in late 2022, include coordination with “landowners, local governments, agencies, Tribal Nations and tribal organizations, and other interested parties,” the press release noted.

      “Subject to regulatory approvals, we anticipate the line will go in service in 2030,but there are many steps in between, including numerous meetings with stakeholder groups for input and required regulatory filings and approvals including the certificate of need and route permit,” Amy Rutledge, corporate communications manager, for ALLETE and Minnesota Power, said in an email.

      Minnesota Power anticipates awarding contracts through a bidding process.

      “There will be opportunities for local contractors and businesses to bid on the project,” Rutledge noted. “Historically, Minnesota Power has used union labor for these large projects and did so on our Great Northern Transmission Line, which went into service in 2020.”

      Rutledge said the project’s cost will be “allocated” to Midcontinent Independent System Operator members once the new line is in service, and that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will “separately review cost recovery for Minnesota Power and its customers’ share of the project.”

      As severe weather events increase, more renewable energy comes online and existing plants are retired, transmission line investments are necessary to “maintain a reliable and resilient power grid,” Minnesota Power said.

      “This joint project with Great River Energy will ensure that the regional power grid our customers depend on will continue to be reliable and flexible as we navigate a changing energy mix for Minnesota Power and in the broader MISO region,” Josh Skelton, Minnesota Power chief operating officer, said in a statement.

      Great River Energy will more than double the amount of renewable energy, primarily wind power, in its portfolio by 2025 and Minnesota Power plans to deliver 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, according to the press release.

      “Building the right transmission will ensure continued reliability as we transition our energy mix, prepare for increased electrification and build in more resilience to extreme weather and other consequential events,” said Priti Patel, vice president and chief transmission officer for Great River Energy said in a statement. “The right transmission will ensure we can make the transition to more low-cost renewable energy and maintain the reliability our members expect.”

      Minnesota Power provides electric service within a 26,000-square-mile area in northeastern Minnesota, supporting 145,000 customers, industrial users and 14 municipalities, according to the press release.

      Maple Grove-based Great River Energy provides electricity to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives, serves more than 720,000 consumers, and owns and operates more than 4,400 miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

      RELATED:Xcel Energy seeks input on $500 million power line in Minnesota

      Copyright © 2022 BridgeTower Media. All Rights Reserved.

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