Minn. poised to import Canadian hydro to cut carbon

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Minn. poised to import Canadian hydro to cut carbon

April 5, 2016

For most of its 120 years, Roseau County, Minn., has exported three things to the world: hockey players, snowmobiles and windows.

Its frostbitten cities of Roseau and Warroad, separated by 22 miles of State Highway 11, have produced more National Hockey League and Olympic hockey team members per capita than any other place in the United States.

Roseau also lays claim to the first motorized snowmobile, invented by Polaris Industries in 1954, while Warroad remains the headquarters of Marvin Windows and Doors, a 120-year-old family enterprise that grew into a $600 million global brand.

Soon, however, this Minnesota county on the border with Canada will begin delivering another high-value product to U.S. consumers: Canadian hydropower.

In February, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission gave final approval to a 500-kilovolt transmission line that will carry electricity from hydro dams in Manitoba to a Minnesota Power substation near Grand Rapids.

The project, called the Great Northern Transmission Line (GNTL), is spearheaded by the Duluth-based electric utility, a subsidiary of ALLETE Inc., and Manitoba Hydro of Winnipeg.

Pending final approval from the Department of Energy, GNTL would become the second 500 kV transmission link between Manitoba and Minnesota, increasing by roughly 40 percent the amount of power that can flow between the North Star State and Canada's easternmost prairie province.

With a projected cost of $560 million to $710 million, GNTL is among a handful of major new grid interconnections planned along the U.S.-Canada border, including two major transmission links under development between New England and Quebec, Canada's largest hydropower producer.

Experts say the construction of those lines, while expensive and politically and environmentally challenging, could make it much easier for border states from Maine to Washington to meet state and federal clean energy requirements, including carbon dioxide reductions mandated under the federal Clean Power Plan.

SOURCE:  E&E Publishing Inc.

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