August 1, 2013
Minnesota, North Dakota

Minnesota Power announces $345 million expansion of wind power

By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune | August 01, 2013 |

Minnesota Power is increasing the amount of its electricity generated by the wind.

The Duluth-based utility Thursday announced plans to build a $345 million, 200-megawatt expansion of its Bison wind project in North Dakota.

The expansion will add 64 wind turbines to the 101 turbines Minnesota Power has installed since 2010 near New Salem, N.D. Construction is expected to begin this year, and the facility is projected to be operational by the end of 2014. The new turbines will generate enough energy to power 92,000 homes.

“We’ve found a way to meet the state of Minnesota’s renewable energy standard early and reduce costs at the same time,” Al Hodnik, chairman, president and CEO of ALLETE, said in a news release. “Expanding Bison will add to our renewable energy supply, resulting in the lowest-cost resource over time by capturing the benefits of the extended production tax credit and a competitive turbine market, while executing ALLETE’s growth strategy.”

The Bison 4 addition will increase the company’s wind portfolio by more than 50 percent to more than 600 megawatts of wind generation.

Minnesota’s renewable energy standard requires that utilities generate 25 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2025. Minnesota Power now generates about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, namely wind and hydro, well on its way to meeting state mandates of 25 percent by 2025. Renewable energy creates fewer emissions, including carbon, which many scientists say is contributing to human-caused global climate change.

The utility anticipates that renewables will account for approximately 25 percent of its projected electric sales following Bison 4’s first full year of operation in 2015. The expansion will include a new substation and approximately 11 miles of a 230-kilovolt transmission line.

The electricity from Bison 1, 2 and 3 is moving from North Dakota to Duluth through a 465-mile direct-current transmission line that the company purchased in 2009. That move enabled Minnesota Power to phase out a long-term contract to buy coal-based electricity in North Dakota and replace it with wind.

The Bison 4 project still needs regulatory approval in North Dakota and Minnesota. Minnesota Power has filed a site permit application with North Dakota regulators and intends to submit a request to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for project approval and cost recovery through a renewable energy rider on customer bills.

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