ALLETE, Inc. and Grid United intend to jointly develop the North Plains Connector, a new, approximately 385-mile high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission line from central North Dakota to Colstrip, Montana.The North Plains Connector HVDC line will be the nation’s first transmission connection between three regional U.S. electric energy markets—the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the Western Interconnection and the Southwest Power Pool.
This new link, open to all sources of electric generation, would create 3,000 megawatts of transfer capacity between the middle of the country and all three energy markets, easing congestion on the transmission system, increasing resiliency and reliability, and enabling fast sharing of energy resources across a vast area with diverse weather patterns.
“Additional investment in transmission is critically important to achieve a clean-energy future and is a key part of our ‘Sustainability-in-Action’ growth strategy as our national footprint expands,” said ALLETE Chair, President and CEO Bethany Owen. “This innovative project is an important step toward a resilient and reliable energy grid across a wide area of the country and ties into important transmission projects being developed in the Upper Midwest and the Western Interconnection. We commend Grid United’s efforts on this much-needed project to enhance the nation’s grid and are thrilled to join forces as together we advance the North Plains Connector to completion.”
ALLETE and Grid United have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore transmission opportunities, with plans to execute a North Plains Connector development agreement in the first half of the year. The project represents an approximately $2.5 billion investment in Montana and North Dakota and will be a long-term asset for those states. Connecting the North Dakota and Montana grids will help mitigate the impact of extreme weather events and accommodate the growing demand for electricity. ALLETE expects to pursue at least 35% ownership and would oversee the line’s operation.
The North Plains Connector project is in the development phase, with Grid United engaging with landowners and stakeholders to determine the best route for the line. The companies expect project permitting to start this year as they work toward an in-service date of 2029, pending regulatory approvals.