Minnesota Power's Great Northern Transmission Line (GNTL) has received federal approval when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Presidential Permit, clearing the way for building the international transmission line to deliver clean energy from Canada’s extensive hydropower resources to Minnesota while strengthening reliability of the power grid.
The Presidential Permit is the final major regulatory approval needed before construction can begin and is required because the transmission line will cross the international border between Manitoba and Minnesota and connect with Manitoba Hydro’s Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project. The DOE, the federal agency responsible for issuing Presidential Permits for electric transmission lines, issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project in October 2015. The Presidential Permit approval is the final step in a four-year process that included comprehensive agency review and voluntary community engagement by Minnesota Power, a utility company of ALLETE, Inc.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 on the 500 kV line that will deliver 383 MW of renewable hydropower purchased from Manitoba Hydro to Minnesota Power’s customers beginning in 2020. The project is a key component of Minnesota Power's EnergyForward strategy to reduce carbon emissions and ensure continued reliability and affordable rates while achieving a balanced energy mix of one-third renewable energy, one-third natural gas and one-third coal.
The Great Northern Transmission Line will optimize and balance the renewable resources of wind and hydropower by creating synergy between Minnesota Power’s 500 MW wind farm in North Dakota and Manitoba Hydro’s system of dams and reservoirs in Canada. Under power purchase agreements between the two companies and approved by the MPUC, 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 farm. When winds are light or calm, Manitoba Hydro can release more water—stored while the wind was blowing—through its dams and increase its hydropower production.
The approved 224 mile route will cross the border between the U.S. and Canada in Roseau County in northern Minnesota, about three miles east of Minnesota Highway 89. The line will run to an expanded Blackberry electric substation east of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The route passes through Roseau, Lake of the Woods, and Koochiching and Itasca counties in Minnesota and largely follows Minnesota Power's preferred route, including the critical international border crossing.
Minnesota Power estimates the total cost of the project will be between US$560 million and US$710 million, with the company’s portion of the cost estimated between US$300-350 million.