Minnesota Power plans more wind power

Minnesota Power will add a third phase to its wind energy generation in North Dakota under a proposal submitted this week to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The Duluth-based utility plans on building a 105-megawatt, $157 million wind farm in Oliver and Morton counties in central North Dakota, one of the most wind-rich locations in the region.

The wind farm, to be called Bison 3, will include 35 giant wind turbines and will be located near Minnesota Power’s already operating Bison 1 and already planned Bison 2 wind energy projects.

Utility officials say the timing is right to add more wind generation as they move to comply with Minnesota’s state requirement to produce 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Federal tax credits continue for wind energy through 2012. And construction of Bison 3 will happen at the same time as Bison 2, which was previously announced, which will save on construction costs, said Al Hodnik, chairman and president of Allete, the utility’s parent company, in a statement.

The wind-made electricity will move to Duluth along Minnesota Power’s 465-mile direct current transmission line that runs from Square Butte, N.D., to the Arrowhead substation outside Duluth.

Combined with hydroelectric operations and biomass, the additional wind generation from Bison 3 will bring Minnesota Power to about 20 percent renewable sources by 2013, said Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman. That’s well ahead of the target date of 2020.

If the wind farm project is approved by the PUC, the cost of the renewable energy won’t affect basic rates paid, and won’t trigger a rate review by the PUC, but could increase a line item charge under "renewable energy" on monthly bills, Rutledge noted.

John Myers, www.duluthnewstribune.com/