Minnesota Power seeks $25 million from Legislature for power line upgrade
In service since 1977, the 465-mile line has reached the end of its life, but a $700 million upgrade could boost its capacity from 500-900 megawatts and ready it for 1,500 megawatts or more.
DULUTH — Minnesota Power is asking the Minnesota Legislature for a $25 million grant to help upgrade a major transmission line between Minnesota and North Dakota. If received, it help would unlock federal grant money.
The money would go toward the Duluth-based utilities’ $700 million modernization of its existing 465-mile high-voltage direct current transmission line stretching from Duluth to Center, North Dakota.
In service since 1977, the line has reached the end of its life, but an upgrade could boost its capacity from 500-900 megawatts while also readying it for future upgrades of 1,500 megawatts or more, company officials said.
As more variable renewable energy sources come online, the electrical grid must be more interconnected to make sure power remains reliable.
“One of the ways that we can do this really efficiently and cost effectively, is to leverage existing infrastructure and take the action when we’re modernizing and renewing to do more with the system versus just building all brand-new,” Julie Pierce, Minnesota Power vice president of strategy and planning, said in a hearing before the Minnesota Senate’s Energy, Utilities, Environment and Climate Committee on Thursday.
The Senate bill, authored by Sens. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown; Jen McEwen, DFL-Duluth; Heather Gustafson, DFL-Vadnais Heights; and Robert Kupec, DFL-Moorhead, was held for possible inclusion in a larger package of legislation later in the session.
Its House companion bill is authored by Reps. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, and Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis.
According to the bills, the $25 million would come from the state’s general fund.
Minnesota Power has also asked North Dakota for $25 million.
In an interview with the News Tribune, McEwen said the transmission line upgrade would help the state reach its goal of having utilities produce energy with only carbon-free sources by 2040, which was mandated in a bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz last month.
“We have these very important goals that we have placed into law … to back that up, we need to actually create the infrastructure that we need to make that happen,” McEwen said.
Hauschild echoed that while introducing the bill to the committee Thursday.
He added that the state’s investment would strengthen the company’s application for federal funding made available through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in late 2021.
“Something that I think all of us want,” he said of federal funding.
Pierce said Minnesota Power expects to request a certificate of need for the project from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this year. The process takes about a year, she said.
The upgraded transmission line could be online in 2027.