Despite numerous challenges, Manitoba Hydro’s Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP) was completed and went into service June 1 — on schedule and on budget.
The 213-kilometre long line connects to Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line (GNTL) at the U.S. border, and allows Manitoba Hydro to fulfill a 250-megawatt firm power sale commitment to Minnesota Power. The 500,000-volt MMTP-GNTL connection also increases Manitoba Hydro’s ability to export additional surplus energy to the U.S. while doubling the capacity to import energy into Manitoba during times of drought, equipment failure, or other emergencies.
“The sale of clean, renewable hydroelectricity into Minnesota provides benefits to customers on both sides of the border,” said Jay Grewal, President and CEO of Manitoba Hydro.
“Completion of MMTP not only strengthens the reliability of the regional power grid and improves energy security for Manitoba Hydro customers, it also allows our hydro stations to backstop Minnesota Power’s large investment in wind generation. This hydro-wind combination enables Minnesota Power to advance its renewable energy goals while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Grewal said.
Export revenues brought in more than 22 per cent of Manitoba Hydro’s total electric revenue 2010–2019, totaling approximately $3.9 billion. “The long-term sale of surplus energy to Minnesota Power will help keep rates lower for Manitobans than they would be otherwise,” Grewal said.
Al Hodnik, Executive Chairman of ALLETE, Minnesota Power’s parent company, said, “The seed for the MMTP-GNTL interconnection was planted in 2008 when Minnesota Power proposed purchasing 250 megawatts of hydropower from Manitoba Hydro. It marries wind and water in a unique connection that will help transform the energy landscape of North America and reduce carbon emissions related to the existential threat of climate change.”
Grewal said MMTP was built on time and on budget despite several considerable challenges, including a tight construction schedule, adverse fall weather and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We battled heavy rainfall at the beginning of construction last year, then the October storm that knocked out power to over 160,000 Manitobans, and finally the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grewal said. “To go through all that, and to still come in on schedule and within the $490-million budget — that’s a testament to the amazing abilities of the team and every individual who worked on MMTP.”
Construction of the project began in the fall of 2019 once federal and provincial regulatory approvals were in place. In under eight months, the utility and its contractors (Valard Construction and Muskeko Joint Venture) poured foundations, constructed 502 towers, strung hundreds of kilometres of overhead wire, performed testing, and connected the line to the grid.
“It’s a remarkable achievement and demonstrates the perseverance, cooperation and skills of hundreds of people over many years,” Grewal said. “Their efforts will bring benefits to our customers for generations to come.”
MMTP is the utility’s second 500,000-volt line to the United States. The first, connecting Manitoba Hydro to Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, was completed and went into service in May 1980.