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Minnesota Power to add wind, split new gas unit with Dairyland in energy plan

Minnesota Power's next energy supply plan calls for another 250 MW of wind, 250 MW of natural gas and 10 MW of solar.

The energy supply plan will help the company execute its "EnergyForward" strategy that calls for a move away from coal and toward lower-carbon resources such as natural gas and renewables, it said in a June 7 news release. Minnesota Power intends to file its plan with the state Public Utilities Commission this summer.

The additional capacity, once added, would result in 44% of its energy supply portfolio coming from renewable energy and natural gas resources. One-third of the portfolio would come from "environmentally compliant baseload coal," Minnesota Power said.

To procure the 250 MW of natural gas capacity, Minnesota Power is partnering with Dairyland Power Cooperative to build a 525-MW to 550-MW combined-cycle, natural gas facility in Superior, Wis., under a joint ownership structure. The combined-cycle plant, called the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, is expected to go online in 2024, Dairyland Power said in a separate news release. Under the joint ownership structure, Minnesota Power would procure half of the facility's output beginning in 2025. The natural gas plant will help back up solar and wind resources and support the energy needs of local industries including mining, forestry and manufacturing, Dairyland Power said.

For the additional wind energy capacity, Minnesota Power plans to enter a 20-year contract to purchase the output of the 250-MW Nobles 2 Power Partners Wind Farm in southwest Minnesota. The wind farm's owner, Tenaska Energy Inc., expects to bring the facility online in December 2019, according to a separate news release.

"Capturing this competitive wind resource will strengthen Minnesota Power's growing renewable portfolio and add geographic diversity to our wind sector," said Julie Pierce, Minnesota Power's vice president-strategy and planning.

Also, Minnesota Power expects to add 10 MW of solar by 2020 by signing a 25-year contract for solar power from Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, which plans to develop a solar array in central Minnesota for operation by 2019, the ALLETE Inc. subsidiary said in a fact sheet.

The package of new resources will undergo a formal public comment period and review by state regulators. Minnesota Power expects the state Public Utilities Commission to take action on the plan by the second half of 2018.

If the new resource plan gets state approval, the company expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to its fact sheet. Carbon emissions have come down in part because Minnesota Power has been shutting down older coal-fired units. By 2020, it expects to fully cease operations at its Taconite Harbor Energy Center in Cook County, Minn. Another two small coal units, totaling 130 MW, at its Clay Boswell plant are expected to be retired in 2018. The company has invested in emission control technology at two larger units, Boswell 3 and 4, to comply with federal mercury standards and keep the units operating.

The additional renewable resources will help the company continue to surpass state renewable requirements. Minnesota state requires the company have about 25% of its projected wholesale and retail power sales come from qualified renewables, but Minnesota Power said in its fact sheet it already gets about 30% of its sales from renewables.