Minnesota Power completes construction on 230-kV lines to serve mine and processing facility

Minnesota Power announced April 2 that completion is imminent for the installation of 28 miles of new transmission lines and two new substations that will serve a mine and steel processing facility in the northern tiers of the state.

The utility, a division of Allete (NYSE:ALE), has already completed construction of several new facilities that will provide up to 110 MW of power to the Esser Steel Minnesota taconite mine and processing facility, which is under construction near Nashwauk, Minn., a town of less than 1,000 located about 85 miles northwest of Duluth. When the facility is finished, it will include a mine, concentrator and taconite production facility.

Transmission additions included construction of three new 230-kV transmission lines, including one five-mile segment of double-circuit 230-kV line and the removal of another 230-kV line. In addition, a new 115-kV line has yet to be completed and a second 115-kV line will be re-routed around the Essar property to tie a Great River Energy circuit to the Minnesota Power 115-kV system.

Work on the 230-kV lines was completed March 8. Remaining work on the 115-kV line will be completed in approximately two weeks.

In addition, two new substations were built and fiber optic communications were added to the new substations. The new McCarthy Lake substation will serve the taconite plant and the new Calumet substation will serve the mine area. Substation construction began in August 2011 and was completed in early March.

The steel facility buys its electricity from the city of Nashwauk, which in turn buys its electricity through a municipal contract with Minnesota Power than runs through 2024. The costs of constructing the new facilities and their ownership will be split between the city of Nashwauk and Minnesota Power.

“This new infrastructure not only energizes Nashwauk and Essar Steel, it also enhances electric reliability for the region,” Chris Fleege, Minnesota Power’s vice president-transmission and distribution, said.

Nashwauk has agreed to provide Essar with all the electric service needed for the company’s proposed taconite facility and any additional future growth, and more new transmission facilities could be on the horizon as Essar continues to evaluate options and develop plans for future growth, the utility said. Those plans, which include several activities that would require large amounts of additional electricity, could ultimately result in a doubling of electric power requirements and necessitate the addition of yet another 230-kV transmission line.

“Building and operating the electric system to meet the energy needs of our large natural resource based industrial customers on the Iron Range is what we have been doing for decades,” Brad Oachs, Minnesota Power COO said in a statement announcing the project’s status.

Calls seeking additional details from Minnesota Power were not returned by press time April 2.