Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project complete

In footage from February, see some MMTP transmission towers being assembled by helicopters.

The transmission line faced many hurdles, but crews jumped all of them.

Construction on the Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP) was completed on April 16, 2020. The line was tested end-to-end to confirm correct phasing on April 20, and commissioning of communications and station equipment began shortly after. Construction faced many challenges: unseasonable fall flooding, a major early winter snowstorm, and a global pandemic, but even those couldn’t stop progress.

A 500-kilovolt transmission link between Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric generating system and Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission line, MMTP has been in the works for over a decade. When energized on June 1, 2020, it will give Minnesota Power direct access to Manitoba’s green, renewable hydropower and improve grid reliability for both utilities.

Underpinning the new line was Minnesota Power’s 15-year commitment to purchase 250 MW of firm power from the Keeyask Generating Station. That commitment included the requirement for a new interconnection. Following signing of the power purchase agreement in 2011, transmission planning, consultations, and regulatory activities commenced.

Construction on the line began in August 2019. September was much wetter than anticipated and the saturated ground slowed construction with impeded travel and unsteady footing. In October, an unprecedented snowstorm caused over $100 million in damage to Manitoba Hydro’s distribution and transmission infrastructure, and knocked out power to over 150,000 customers. This year, construction was impacted by the global pandemic and physical distancing rules, but the project stayed on track.

“This was an almost impossible task to complete in the time available,” said David Cormie, Manitoba Hydro’s Director of Wholesale Power Operations. “It’s been a long journey and it took a lot of effort by a lot of people to get us to this point.”

Manitoba Hydro split the line into two sections and awarded construction to two different contractors. Section one, which stretched from Dorsey Converter Station (near Rosser, Manitoba) to Anola, Manitoba, was constructed by Muskeko Joint Venture, an Indigenous-led partnership with local contractor Voltage Power. Section two, from Anola to the Canada–U.S. border, was constructed by Valard Construction. Both teams faced obstacles, and both teams worked diligently to overcome them.

Shane Mailey, Vice-President of Operations for Manitoba Hydro, thanked everyone involved with the project:

“It’s been an arduous journey. To our team, of course we can’t thank them enough on an incredible job. It seems whatever risk we could think of and more came at us, and then throw in a pandemic on top of it… but they took on every challenge and found a solution. Their dedication and expertise throughout was beyond impressive.”