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Minnesota Power plans to begin construction this year on a 200 MW expansion of its Bison Wind Energy Center, located in North Dakota.

The company says Bison 4 will add 64 more wind turbines to the 101 it has installed at the project since 2010 and will increase Minnesota Power's wind portfolio by more than 50% to over 600 MW. The expansion will make the Bison Wind Energy Center, with about 500 MW of capacity, the largest single wind energy center in North Dakota, the company adds.

Renewable energy generated by the Bison project is transmitted to Minnesota Power’s Arrowhead Substation near Duluth, Minn., over a 465-mile direct-current transmission line the company acquired in 2009.

Estimated to cost approximately $345 million, Bison 4 will be constructed in Oliver County, N.D., north and west of the project’s first three phases currently in operation. The expansion will include a new substation and approximately 11 miles of a 230 kV transmission line. Construction is anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, with the project being operational by the end of 2014.

Along with its other wind, biomass and hydro energy resources, the utility says the Bison 4 project will help it meet Minnesota’s 25% by 2025 renewable portfolio standard by 2015.

“We’ve found a way to meet the state of Minnesota’s renewable energy standard early and reduce costs at the same time,” says Al Hodnik, chairman, president and CEO of ALLETE, parent company of Minnesota Power. “Expanding Bison will add to our renewable energy supply, resulting in the lowest-cost resource over time by capturing the benefits of the extended production tax credit and a competitive turbine market, while executing ALLETE’s growth strategy.”

The project is dependent upon regulatory approvals in North Dakota and Minnesota. Minnesota Power has filed a site permit application with North Dakota regulators and intends to submit a request to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for project approval and cost recovery through a renewable energy rider on customer bills.





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