2020 Update: the Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project

Work on Manitoba Hydro’s Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP) is moving ahead at full speed. In 2019 the utility saw a number of major milestones on the project, and 2020 will bring numerous others.

MMTP is a 500-kilovolt transmission line that will connect with Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line. It will strengthen the overall reliability of the province’s electricity supply, allow Manitoba Hydro to fulfill current export sales agreements, and provide increased import capability into Manitoba. Manitoba Hydro’s U.S. wholesale customers will also have better access to the utility’s clean, renewable hydropower.

The project’s scheduled in-service date is spring 2020, and despite some adverse conditions in 2019, ingenuity and accelerated construction schedules mean the project is still on track to meet that target.

Here’s a brief timeline of what 2019 looked like for the project:

  • The National Energy Board of Canada granted regulatory approval for the project in August.
  • In collaboration with Indigenous communities near the project, a pipe ceremony was conducted on the site of future construction to honour the land and the life around it. Indigenous engagement and direct involvement are major components of the project.
  • Construction began very shortly after the pipe ceremony, beginning with clearing trees on the right of way, setting up work sites near key construction areas, and collecting necessary materials.
  • Foundation work, including pile driving, concrete pouring, and geotechnical assessments, began in September. This was complicated by a wetter-than-normal autumn, including flooding in several areas.
  • Tower assembly began in the third week of September.
  • A major storm hit the province of Manitoba in early October, bringing heavy wet snow and freezing rain. Construction was temporarily halted while Manitoba Hydro worked to restore power to thousands of customers and repair tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to our electrical infrastructure.
  • Tower assembly re-started and tower erection began shortly after the storm clean-up (the third week of October). It continued into December.
  • On December 5, 12, and 19, we moved three large autotransformers 132 km (82 mi) from the manufacturing plant in Winnipeg to their final destination at Riel Converter Station. These autotransformers are part of several upgrades to our system designed to accommodate MMTP going into service.
  • Line stringing began on December 19. Watch our YouTube video to see how a helicopter flies a rope into pulleys on the towers. Once through the pulleys, the rope is attached to a bigger, metal line, which is then also fed through the pulleys. Then, using the stronger line, the three conductors that will actually carry power are pulled through the pulleys to their final destination.
Tower assembly using a helicopter.
Tower assembly using a helicopter.

So what’s next for MMTP?

The line stringing process will continue, while tower assembly and erection will wrap up. Then all transformers will be set and tested for the load, and finally, the completed line will be tied into our existing system, connected with the Great Northern Transmission Line, and energized.

There is no doubt 2019 presented a few hurdles for the MMTP. But with skilled construction crews and many years of experience working in inclement weather, we expect work in 2020 will move along smoothly.