BISMARCK, N.D. – State regulators on Wednesday approved a land corridor for a proposed $312 million electric line to carry coal-generated power from western North Dakota to Grand Forks, a project that will make another power line available to transmit wind energy.
Short sections of the proposed line will run alongside an existing one that transmits power from Center to Hermantown, Minn., just west of Duluth.
A Minnkota subsidiary earlier sold the existing line to Duluth-based Minnesota Power. When the new line is finished, Minnesota Power intends to use it to supply Minnesota customers with wind power generated in western North Dakota.
North Dakota’s Public Service Commission, which previously held hearings on the project in Northwood, Washburn and Carrington, agreed Wednesday to Minnkota Power Cooperative’s request for a 1,000-foot-wide corridor for the new power line.
The commission will determine the line’s specific route and issue a construction permit later.
Minnkota, based in Grand Forks, wants the line to carry electricity from the Milton Young power station it operates near Center to a substation west of Grand Forks. The power will supply 11 rural-member electric cooperatives in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, which have about 120,000 customers.
Tony Clark, president of the Public Service Commission, said the project will help Minnesota Power meet renewable-energy mandates in Minnesota.
“Minnesota Power is using the existing … line and converting that to almost an entirely wind-only line,” Clark said.
Minnkota wants to begin construction of the line this fall and have it ready by mid-2013, regulatory filings say.
The commissioners said environmental advocates were concerned by the path of the line through an area of alkaline prairie in Grand Forks County that is noted for bird watching.
Clark said there was nothing in North Dakota law or rules that extended special protection to the area. Doing so would move the power line closer to homes, farmland and ranch land, he said.
Commissioner Kevin Cramer said the commission’s order granting the 1,000-foot corridor took into account the concerns of a number of landowners along the route. “It reflects some of the more reasonable suggestions by landowners and thoughtful people,” Cramer said.
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