Latest News

Minnesota Power Deploys Smart Wires Solutions to Optimize Grid and Save Customers Money

SAN FRANCISCO, March 06, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Minnesota Power and Smart Wires completed the installation of a deployment of PowerLine Guardians® in Little Falls, Minnesota, on a 115 kV circuit. The installation occurred over a three-day period in December and the units were placed into operation in early 2017. Part of the Smart Wires Guardian product family, this technology increases a line’s reactance, pushing power away from that line and onto other underutilized paths on the grid.

“Minnesota Power is committed to delivering security, comfort and quality of life to our customers. The integrity and reliability of the grid is a huge part of that. Smart Wires’ technology is very aligned with the execution of our mission and vision,” said Brad Oachs, who oversees Minnesota Power as President of Regulated Operations of ALLETE.

In-line with their EnergyForward strategy, Minnesota Power is leveraging Smart Wires’ technology to increase the utilization of existing assets and save their customers money. This solution alleviates the need to reconductor the line, a time- and labor-intensive installation of new wires and poles. Read more

Legislation would boost standard for renewable energy

Minnesota's renewable energy standard would jump to 50 percent by 2030 under legislation announced Monday by Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, though it will likely face a stiff challenge in the Legislature.

The state's current renewable energy standard — created in 2007 — calls for 25 percent of Minnesota's electricity to be produced from renewable resources by 2025. Currently, more than 21 percent of electric power comes from such sources as wind and solar.

The bills would raise that percentage to 50 percent by 2030.

"If we redouble our efforts, and raise Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard to 50 percent by 2030, we will improve air quality, continue to drive down the cost of renewable energy, and generate thousands of new energy jobs," Smith said in a statement. Read more

Xcel Energy switches on 32MW of community solar in Minnesota

Xcel Energy has commissioned seven new community solar gardens, totalling 32MW in Minnesota.

The projects were developed under the utility’s Solar Rewards Community programme that aims to spur community solar among residential subscribers and local businesses. Xcel Energy currently has 57MW of community solar gardens online at 17 project sites as part of its programme, which was launched in 2014.

The projects are also part of a larger 96MW of community solar to be developed by BHE Renewables and Geronimo Energy that will provide clean energy throughout the Twin Cities metro area and greater Minnesota.

“We’re proud to work with dedicated partners as we bring more solar energy options to our customers,” said Christopher Clark, president of Xcel Energy, Minnesota. “Xcel Energy is on a path to deliver a third of our energy from renewables by 2030, and solar plays a role in achieving this ambitious goal.” Read more

Minnesota Power named ‘Large Business of the Year’

The Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce recently named Minnesota Power as the “Large Business of the Year.”
“It’s a surprise, yet at the same time, it isn’t, but it is definitely an honor,” said Dan Gunderson, director of distribution engineering and operations at Minnesota Power.
Supervisor of the line crew Dean Erdman said he didn’t think Minnesota Power would be considered.
“It seems like it is usually surrounded around businesses that sell items, not just provide a service,” Erdman said.
Minnesota Power, founded in 1923, provides electric power to Little Falls and across Northeast Minnesota — covering a 26,000 square mile service territory and serving 145,000 customers.
Through its EnergyForward plan, Minnesota Power strives to do its parts in providing reliable and clean energy. At the same time, the company also strives to help transform the way energy is produced, delivered and consumed in the United States.
In addition, Minnesota Power is strengthening the grid that delivers energy to homes, businesses and other industry. It also generates more power from renewable sources, such as wind, water and solar, while helping customer find ways to understand, manage and reduce their energy use. Read more

Construction starts on Allete Great Northern Transmission Line

Minnesota Power in 2016 made progress building on its “EnergyForward” strategy, Allete chairman, president and CEO Al Hodnik said during Allete’s 4Q16 earnings call on Feb. 15.

An example of that progress includes that late last year, Minnesota Power received a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy, enabling the company to move forward with the Great Northern Transmission Line.

Hodnik added: “The 220-mile, 500-kV line will deliver hydroelectric-generated electricity from Manitoba to Minnesota Power. We have started preliminary work on construction of the transmission line, which is expected to be completed by 2020.”

Another example of that progress, he said, is “an all-time production record that was set at the 500-MW Bison Wind Energy Facility in North Dakota.”

Additionally, Minnesota Power’s hydro operations closed the year at near-record production levels since inception in 1906, he said. Read more

Chisago County takes pride in being dubbed 'Solar Capitol of Minnesota'

Solar energy has had a few strong years-- especially in Chisago County-- while an estimated 50 percent of the U.S. coal fired plants have closed since 2010. Tax and investment incentives and local cooperative projects between traditional energy distributors and the solar generating industry have resulted in solar power becoming part of the local landscape.

Still, the long term feasibility of solar as an alternative energy source is not assured. The 2007 Supreme Court may have ruled the federal government must regulate greenhouse gases to reduce their impact as a pollutant-- but the big question local officials grapple with is-- will states and local government have more of a say or less influence on solar under the Trump Administration?

Chisago County estimates about $350,000 in prodution tax revenues to be created by the county’s solar projects. Read more

New Xcel program sells renewable energy directly to businesses and homeowners

Minnesota’s largest utility this spring will offer businesses and ratepayers the opportunity to buy shares of power directly from two renewable energy sources.

However, critics of the program say it could siphon customers away from the state’s growing community solar market.

The Public Utilities Commission approved a pilot for the program, known as Renewable Connect, in January. The pilot allows Xcel Energy to apportion 50 megawatts of wind generated from the 200 MW Odell Wind Farm in southwest Minnesota to the program.

Another 25 MW has been added to the program from the North Star Solar Project in Chisago County, according to Laura McCarten, Xcel’s regional vice president.

“I’m thinking we’ll get the whole thing subscribed, but we’ll find out once the subscription period opens,” she said.

Xcel set up Renewable Connect “because this is something our customers want from us,” McCarten said. Read more

CenterPoint Energy designated a 2016 Residential Customer Champion in Utility Trusted Brand & Engagement™ Residential study

MINNEAPOLIS - February 2, 2017 - CenterPoint Energy achieved top tier rankings among U.S. natural gas utilities throughout 2016 in the Midwest and South regions, designating the company a 2016 Residential Customer Champion by Cogent Reports™. The Customer Champions list was compiled from year-end Engaged Customer Relations (ECR) scores and ratings from consumers surveyed for the annual Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™ study. The results are based on responses from more than 52,000 residential ratepayers for 130 leading gas and electric utilities throughout the U.S. The study measures and tracks brand trust, customer engagement, satisfaction and relationship strength among residential customers. Read more

County looks to locate solar energy at closed landfill site

The county is looking into installing solar panels at a landfill, a move that could help reduce power costs. The option is in the early stages of being investigated, and was shared with the Waseca County Economic Development Authority at its Jan. 20 meeting.

The county owns a 78-acre tract of land in Otisco Township that is currently a closed landfill.
"A couple years back, we worked with state on a rezoning concept for the landfill area," said county Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Leiferman. "One of things it allowed us to do is convert areas into solar power. We are just looking at exploring that with the (Minnesota) Pollution Control Agency at this point in time."

Leiferman said this presents an opportunity to make good use of the covered landfill area, which can't be used for much else. The benefits to the county, he said, include the fact that it can reduce power costs and obtain rental income for that piece of property.

"The reason this site is attractive is that there's power line that runs on Hwy. 13, and since this is along Hwy. 13, it ties into that pretty easily," Leiferman said.

The biggest concern, he said, is making sure that the cover over the landfill, whether it's polyvinyl or hard-packed clay, isn't punched through, releasing contaminants. Read more

Our View: Don't take for granted our headquartered utility

Last year, with a triple-whammy rate hike proposal, fee increase and rate shift all threatening to do a number on our electric bills, Minnesota Power faced a PR and community relations nightmare.

"Timing doesn't always work perfectly for everybody," Dave McMillan, an executive vice president for Minnesota Power, acknowledged last week during a chamber-sponsored public forum.

But the utility survived — or is surviving — and remains positioned as a strong and important player in Duluth's economy. And if there was a takeaway from the forum, that was it. That's what stood out, moreso even than the valuable information about the changing challenges of providing power.

"We want a strong local public utility, and we should not take that for granted," was the way Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce President David Ross put it. "Elsewhere, different utilities have been purchased, consolidated, and communities have lost that local leadership and that local accountability. ... A strong stock, a strong performance (by Minnesota Power) goes to our community's benefit. It keeps those employees in Duluth. If our utility was consolidated with a larger out-of-state supplier and organization, the benefit of having this kind of corporate headquartered office would be greatly reduced." Read more