Hearings scheduled on 2 N.D. power line projects
Separately, the state Public Service Commission set another public hearing on a smaller power line project that is intended to feed wind-generated electricity to markets in Minnesota.
Both projects are related to an elaborate transaction between Minnkota Power Cooperative, of Grand Forks, and Allete Inc., a Duluth, Minn.-based company with electric utility and coal mining subsidiaries. Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer called the deal a ‘‘power swap.’’
An Allete unit, Minnesota Power, bought an electric transmission line that has been used to ship power from Minnkota’s Milton R. Young station near Center, N.D., to Hermantown, Minn., near Duluth.
Before the deal, Minnesota Power and Minnkota had shared the Young station’s power output equally. However, Allete wants the line to transmit wind-generated electricity from projects it is developing in west-central North Dakota, state regulatory filings say.
In turn, Minnkota is building a new transmission line from the Young station to Grand Forks, at a cost of more than $300 million. It will carry electricity that Minnesota Power will no longer be buying.
Minnkota supplies electricity to rural electric cooperatives in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.
The Public Service Commission has already determined the line’s general location. On Wednesday, the commission scheduled three hearings to take public comment on its precise route.
The first hearing is Feb. 22 in Washburn’s Memorial Hall. The second is Feb. 27 at the University of North Dakota’s law school. The third will be held at the Chieftain Conference Center in Carrington. All three hearings will begin at 9 a.m.
Tony Clark, the chairman of the Public Service Commission, said the new power line would improve electric service reliability in northeastern North Dakota.
‘‘It’s part of the state that is not as transmission-rich,’’ Clark said. ‘‘There are just not as many lines that go into that region.’’
The commission also scheduled a single March 5 public hearing on Allete’s request to build a new, 11-mile power line along the border between Oliver and Morton counties. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. March 5 at the Oliver County courthouse in Center.
Regulatory filings say the project will cost about $10 million. The line is part of a network to carry electricity being generated by wind farms in the region, much of which will be exported to Minnesota. Clark said some of the power could also be sold on the open market.