Minnesota Power says it has accelerated plans to build a third wind-energy project in North Dakota, thanks to a competitive turbine market, federal production tax credits, and regulatory support as factors for moving up its timeline. The company submitted a plan to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this week to build a 105 MW, $157 million, wind farm in Oliver and Morton Counties in central North Dakota. The 35 turbine Bison 3 project will be constructed near the Bison 1 and 2 wind projects. Coupled with the Company’s scheduled biomass and current wind projects, Bison 3 will place the firm closer to a goal of producing 25% of Minnesota’s power from renewable energy by 2025.
In approving Minnesota Power’s long-term resource plan, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in May suggested the company consider adding more wind to its renewable portfolio before expiration of federal production tax credits on December 31, 2012. The company is building two other wind developments in North Dakota: The 82-MW Bison 1 is half done with a second phase expected online by end of 2011. The 105-MW Bison 2 will progress along with Bison 3. Both projects are scheduled for service in 2012. Bison 2 and 3 will begin construction upon receipt of necessary permits and approvals. The Bison 3 project will use Siemens direct drive 3.0-MW turbines as will the second phase of Bison 1 and all of Bison 2. “The timing is right for expanding our wind initiative in North Dakota,” said Allete CEO Al Hodnik. “Building Bison 2 and 3 will result in construction cost savings, and let us leverage existing transmission.” The addition of Bison 3 will move the company within 5% of achieving the state’s 25% by 2025 mandate in 2020.
The energy from all three projects will be delivered to Minnesota Power customers by a 465-mi dc transmission line that stretches from the Square Butte Substation in Center, N.D. to the company’s Arrowhead Substation near Duluth. “The dc transmission line is a critical element in our overall strategy to diversify our energy portfolio and cost effectively achieve the state’s renewable energy policy,” says Hodnik.
The company says the project will have little to no immediate impact on base electric rates. Over time, the addition of wind energy is expected to lower costs to customers by offsetting power purchases in the wholesale market. Minnesota Power will seek current cost recovery eligibility for Bison 3, which, if approved, will occur under the Company’s Renewable Resources Rider.