With regulatory hurdles cleared at both the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the U.S. Department of Energy, the Great Northern Transmission Line is set to connect Minnesota Power to Manitoba Hydro, across the U.S./Canadian border. The 224-mile, 500 kV transmission line will connect Minnesota Power transmission system in northern Minnesota to Manitoba Hydro’s grid.

This project and associated agreements are designed to provide flexibility to both Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro, and enable Minnesota Power to fully utilize the wind energy generated at Bison Wind Energy Center. Expected to be in service by 2020, this transmission line will allow Minnesota Power to send energy to Manitoba during times of low load on its system and high wind productivity in North Dakota. Conversely, when load is high and wind generation is low, Manitoba Hydro will send this stored energy back to Minnesota Power.

Source: http://www.greatnortherntransmissionline.com/statusmap.html

In this set up, Manitoba Hydro is essentially acting like a large battery, improving the flexibility and reliability of the grid in this region, and integrating more clean energy. In previous blogs, we have discussed the importance of transmission infrastructure to unlock the vast renewable resources in the Midwest. Another tool for supporting more wind energy is the use of energy storage in the MISO, the region’s electricity system operator, grid. This can consist of battery storage, pumped hydro, and now large system hydro from Manitoba.

Specifics of the Deal

After three  years of public meetings, state and provincial need and siting permits, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a Presidential Permit for the construction of a transmission line connecting the systems of Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro in November 2016. This project and the associated energy supply contract will help support the integration of 500 MW of wind resources owned by Minnesota Power.

The need for the line was approved by the MN PUC in June 2015 and the route in April 2016.  The benefits this project are expected to deliver to Minnesota Power’s customers include:

  1. Helping meet the capacity needs of Minnesota Power and its customers;
  2. Optimizing Minnesota Power’s wind resources;
  3. Reducing Minnesota Power’s reliance on coal, mitigating future emissions regulation risk; and
  4. Improving the reliability of the transmission system in the region.¹

This is the first transmission and energy purchase contract between Manitoba Hydro and a U.S. client to include wind diversity exchange. This type of arrangement not only helps bring more wind online by reducing the need to integrate it at the time of generation but will also help maximize the value of transmission lines being built on the system and demonstrate the value of load-following capabilities by both Manitoba Hydro and other storage projects.

We will work with these parties and MISO to demonstrate the reliability and efficiency benefits of contracts like this, which leverage flexible energy storage resources to bring more renewable energy onto the MISO grid.

¹ http://www.mnpower.com/Content/Documents/Company/PressReleases/2015/2015…

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