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Thursday, May 3, 2012n Page 9 Regulators approve $312M electric power line

By DALE WETZEL Associated Press

approved the state’s largest electric trans- mission project since the 1970s, a 250- mile power line that will link a western North Dakota power plant to a network of rural electric cooperatives. The $312 million project, which its

North Dakota regulators on April 25

month. The commission has held several pub-

lic hearings along the proposed route to hear from landowners, which Clark said resulted in minor changes to Minnkota’s plan. The line will carry electricity to

developer expects to complete by the end of 2013, is part of an elaborate power and transmission swap with another utility that has been developing wind energy projects in western North Dakota. Tony Clark, chairman of North Da-

kota’s Public Service Commission, said the new power line should decrease the chances for supply outages in northeast- ern North Dakota and northern Minne- sota. “There is a less robust (electric) trans-

voted unanimously April 25 to approve Minnkota Power Cooperative’s route plans for the new power line. The deci- sion clears the way for the Grand Forks- based utility to begin construction next

changes by the U.S. Agriculture Depart- ment’s Rural Utilities Service. The changes will also “facilitate the

Grand Forks from Minnkota’s Milton R. Young station, about 40 miles northwest of Bismarck in western North Dakota’s coal country. Minnkota provides electricity to 11

rural electric cooperatives and a dozen municipal utilities in eastern North Da- kota and western Minnesota, which to- gether serve more than 130,000 custom- ers.

mission system in that part of the state, and so this will help provide some addi- tional ... reliability,” Clark said. The three-member commission

an existing line that runs from the Young plant to Hermantown, Minn., west of Duluth in northern Minnesota. A Minnkota subsidiary earlier sold

The new transmission line will replace

the existing power line to Minnesota Power, a unit of Allete Inc. of Duluth. Minnesota Power plans to use the line to carry renewable electricity from western North Dakota wind farms to its custom- ers in the Duluth area. As part of the deal, Minnesota Power

is gradually relinquishing its right to buy half of the electricity from the Milton

R. Young station, which is generated by burning coal. Minnkota will snap up the coal power and use it to meet growing electric demands from its own custom- ers, regulatory filings say. The new power line “will provide a

more direct path” for electricity from the Young station to serve Minnkota’s cus- tomers, according to an analysis of the

development of additional wind gen- eration in North Dakota by Minnesota Power for delivery to eastern Minnesota,” the analysis says. Clark said the new Minnkota line is

the biggest power-line project under- taken in North Dakota since the devel- opment of several coal-fueled electric power plants in western North Dakota in the 1970s. Commissioner Kevin Cramer said

the power-line swap will boost Minne- sota Power’s ability to transmit wind- generated electricity from North Dakota to Minnesota, and meet a requirement in Minnesota law that utilities supply a portion of their electricity from renew- able sources. A federal tax subsidy crucial to the

wind power industry’s economic health faces an uncertain future, Cramer said. “The interesting thing to see will be

how Minnesota Power fills the full ca- pacity of that ... line going into Duluth with wind, especially depending on how the production tax credit gets handled in the next Congress,” Cramer said.

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