Minnesota Power has energized the Great Northern Transmission Line, bringing 250 megawatts of hydropower from northern Manitoba to Minnesota Power customers.

The 224-mile, 500-kilovolt power line in northern Minnesota stretches from the international border in Roseau County to a substation east of Grand Rapids. On the Canadian side, Manitoba Power built a transmission line from the border to just outside Winnipeg.

Minnesota Power said the line will help it reach 50% renewable energy in 2021. The company had already reached 30% renewable energy before the power line was energized, up from just 5% in 2005.

The Duluth-based utility owned by Allete has relied increasingly on renewable energy like wind, solar and hydro and less on coal.

“This is such an incredible achievement for Minnesota Power, (Allete), and our region, and is the culmination of a decade-long vision brought to life by our talented and dedicated employees,” Allete President and CEO Bethany Owen said in a news release Thursday.

The utility sees the hydropower key when the wind doesn’t blow at its growing array of 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 wind farms. When winds are light, Manitoba Hydro can release more water and send more electricity south.

Minnesota Power first proposed buying 250 megawatts of hydropower from Manitoba Hydro in 2008 and started engaging with landowners and tribes along potential routes in 2012. The route was approved by the PUC in 2016 and construction began in 2017.

Duluth News Tribune June 11, 2020