Great River extends, expands power swap with Manitoba Hydro

Minnesota-based Great River Energy has signed a 200-MW seasonal diversity exchange with Manitoba Hydro out of Canada, extending a 150-MW arrangement that has been in place between the two utilities since 1995 until 2030.

“We are pleased to work with our long-term partner to secure this competitive power generation resource for our member cooperatives,” said Jon Brekke, vice president of member services for Great River Energy, in an Oct. 24 statement. “Seasonal diversity exchanges like this are a great way for both utilities to share capacity and diversify sources of power supply. The exchange makes use of existing transmission lines between the utilities, and helps ensure a more secure, stable and affordable energy future for our members.”

Over the years, Great River Energy has increased its purchase of wind energy and hydropower and has significantly reduced emissions at its power plants.

“Since 2006, we have lowered our carbon emissions intensity by 20 percent,” Brekke added. “The new agreement with Manitoba Hydro helps continue that trend.”

Seasonal diversity exchanges take advantage of the fact that Manitoba Hydro’s load peaks during the winter heating season, while Great River Energy generally experiences its peak loads in the summer, due to higher air conditioning load. The diversity exchange means Manitoba Hydro will provide 200 MW of renewable hydro capacity to Great River Energy in the summer to meet its energy needs, while Great River Energy will provide Manitoba Hydro with 200 MW of capacity during the winter.

“Great River Energy has been a valued partner of Manitoba Hydro for many years,” said Scott Thomson, president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro. “We are very pleased that we have signed this agreement extending our relationship for the next 15 years.”

Great River Energy, based in Maple Grove, Minn., is a not-for-profit wholesale electric cooperative owned by 28 member cooperatives, serving about 650,000 member-consumers — or about 1.7 million people. Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, with more than 3,500 MW of capability.

Manitoba Hydro is the Canadian province’s major energy utility, serving over 548,000 electric customers across the province and almost 270,000 natural gas customers in communities throughout southern Manitoba. Manitoba Hydro operates 15 hydroelectric and two thermal facilities and has a total generating capacity of 5,685 MW.

Manitoba Hydro expanding capacity in part to meet U.S. needs

This is not the only recent dealing by a Minnesota utility for hydro power out of Manitoba. ALLETE (NYSE: ALE) subsidiary Minnesota Power filed Oct. 21 with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) for approval of the 240-mile, 500-kV Great Northern Transmission Line. That line will link to a Manitoba Hydro line at the Canada-U.S. border and will carry renewable hydropower from Manitoba to a Minnesota Power electric substation on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

The international transmission interconnection is needed to support delivery of hydroelectric energy from Manitoba Hydro to the U.S. from two new generating stations under development in northern Manitoba that will be capable of producing more than 2,000 MW, the utility said.

The Great Northern Transmission Line will facilitate the delivery of at least 750 MW of energy into the U.S. Beginning in June 2020, Minnesota Power will utilize the line to deliver 250 MW from Manitoba Hydro through a power purchase agreement approved by the MPUC in early 2012.

In addition, the two utilities recently finalized a term sheet outlining how Minnesota Power will purchase additional energy and substantially expand its energy storage opportunities using the new transmission asset. Minnesota Power would essentially under that agreement supply wind power to Manitoba Hydro when the wind is blowing strongly, allowing the Canadian utility to store extra water behind its dams, which would then be released to supply extra power to Minnesota Power when the wind is not blowing.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.