Minnesota Power adds 210 MW wind power generation

Minnesota Power, a division of Allete Inc. reached a milestone in its energy supply diversification strategy with the completion of phases two and three of the company's Bison Wind Energy Center. The 210 MW renewable energy installations near New Salem, N.D., are now operational and the commissioning process has been completed.

Bison 2 and 3 consist of 70 wind turbine generators, each capable of producing three MW of electric power by way of direct-drive turbines manufactured by Siemens AG. The turbines are installed atop 265-foot towers in south-central North Dakota.

Minnesota Power is moving the wind energy from North Dakota to Duluth, Minn., over a 465-mile direct current transmission line that the company purchased in 2009. That purchase enabled Minnesota Power to phase out a long-term contract to buy coal-based electricity from the Young Station in Center, N.D., and replace it with wind energy.

A meticulous commissioning process for Bison 2 and 3 involving personnel from Minnesota Power and Siemens was completed this week. The final stage of the launch involves control testing that demonstrates that the Bison project can function as a "wind park," with all three phases working together.

MISO, a regional organization overseeing electric transmission in 11 U.S. states and Manitoba, will be involved in integrating the completed wind park into the regional power grid.

Minnesota Power's Bison project was launched in 2010. The 82-MW Bison 1 wind farm consisting of 31 wind turbines was built over two years. This year, the Duluth-based electric utility erected an additional 70 towers. The accelerated timetable is largely due to the scheduled expiration of a production tax credit on wind generation at the end of 2012.

The company entered the wind energy business in 2006 and 2007 when it began purchasing the entire 98-MW output of the Oliver 1 and Oliver 2 wind farms built and operated by NextEra Energy in North Dakota. In 2008, Minnesota Power built its first wind farm, the 25-MW Taconite Ridge, on property owned by its largest electric customer, U.S. Steel, in Mountain Iron, Minn.

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