The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday announced it has issued a so-called presidential permit giving federal approval for Minnesota Power's plan to bring electricity into Minnesota from northern Manitoba hydroelectric dams.
The permit approves the cross-border aspects of the Great Northern Transmission Line, in the works since 2012, and Minnesota Power officials declared it the last major regulatory hurdle before construction can begin on the power line early next year.
State regulators in February approved the route for the 500-kilovolt line. Electricity generated by a new dam in northern Manitoba will start moving to Minnesota Power customers in 2020.
The 224-mile route of the more-than-$560 million Minnesota portion of the power line will start in Roseau County and run to an expanded electric substation at Blackberry, just east of Grand Rapids. Manitoba Power is building the transmission line on its side of the border.
"I would like to thank Cong. Rick Nolan, Cong. Collin Peterson, Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the Red Lake Nation for their strong support of the project and advocacy to the" Department of Energy, said Al Hodnik, CEO of Allete, Minnesota Power's parent company.
The Duluth-based utility wants the hydroelectric power to offset its decrease in coal-generated electricity as it moves to meet the state's carbon reduction efforts and demands for renewable energy.
"The Great Northern Transmission Line is a crucial link in Minnesota Power's Energy Forward strategy of balancing renewable and traditional energy sources. Minnesota Power already has exceeded Minnesota's 25 percent renewable standard, and is well-positioned to meet future decreased carbon emissions goals," Hodnik said.
The utility sees the hydro power as a hedge against times when the wind doesn't blow for its growing array of North Dakota wind generators. Under purchase agreements between the two companies and approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Manitoba Hydro can reduce the flow of water through its hydro generators when there is excess wind power from Minnesota Power's North Dakota wind farms. When winds are light, Manitoba Hydro can release more water and send more electricity south.