The unanimous approval this week by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission of a 15-year, 250-megawatt power purchase deal between Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro further solidifies the building of the province’s next hydroelectric dam, Premier Greg Selinger said Friday.
“It means we’ve got to build Keeyask now, and it means that we’ve got a customer,” Selinger said. “It’s a great story.”
The Minnesota state regulator approved the power purchase agreement on Thursday, a deal that was first announced four years ago and estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.
It also calls for Minnesota Power to have the ability to store excess wind energy generated in its North Dakota wind farms with Manitoba Hydro when wind production is high and electric loads are low, maximizing the value of its wind production.
Selinger said it was noteworthy the Minnesota Power press release touted the agreement as carbon-free hydroelectricity from Manitoba.
“A big part of their requirements is to acquire clean green energy and we’ve been able to be a provider, and we’re pleased by that,” Selinger said.
He added the Minnesota purchase makes a stronger case for the Bipole III transmission line, which is to be built on the west side of the province to bring more hydroelectric power south and improve reliability. The province’s Clean Environment Commission is to begin environmental hearings on the line soon.
In a statement, Al Hodnik, president and CEO of ALLETE Inc., Minnesota Power’s parent company, said the commission’s endorsement of the power deal shows two countries can work together to meet North America’s changing energy needs.
That need has shifted over the past few years as new drilling methods have produced a surplus of cheap natural gas.
Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board said recently Manitoba Hydro should explore building a new plant in southern Manitoba to burn natural gas to produce electricity rather than spend billions building the Bipole III and the Keeyask dam.
The 695-megawatt, $5.6-billion Keeyask project, also known as Gull Rapids, will flood a 46-square-kilometre area of northern Manitoba and produce enough electricity to power every household in Winnipeg.
Under an agreement reached last June, it will be developed by Hydro through a partnership with the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation and York Factory First Nation.
Construction of Keeyask will provide around 4,500 person-years of direct employment over a seven-year period, with first unit in-service targeted for 2019 and all units commissioned by 2021.
— With files from Larry Kusch
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