“Our plan builds on the tremendous progress we’ve made to achieve a more balanced and sustainable energy mix in a cost competitive manner,” Hodnik said. “Our North Dakota wind operations have more than tripled the amount of renewable energy on our system in a short time, moving our power supply from 5 percent renewable energy in 2005, to 20 percent this year.”

As part of its Energy Forward plan, Minnesota Power will upgrade the largest hydroelectric system in the state, by increasing efficiencies at its Thomson and Fond du Lac hydroelectric stations. At the same time, the company will continue its leading-edge Power of One© conservation program which has exceeded state conservation goals by providing customers with tools to lower their energy usage.

Reducing emissions and improving efficiencies through technology investments

Minnesota Power plans to invest approximately $350 million in additional environmental upgrades at its largest electric generator, Boswell Energy Center Unit 4, to comply with the EPA Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS) and the Minnesota Mercury Emission Reduction Act, resulting in at least a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions. These upgrades, combined with other emission reduction investments made since 2006, will result in system-wide emission reductions of more than 85 percent by 2016. Boswell 4 in 2010 made major nitrogen oxide emission reductions and increased its operating efficiency with new turbine rotor investments.

Fleet transition

Over the last year, the company explored alternatives for its small coal units including retrofitting, refueling and retirement against the backdrop of environmental regulations and historically low natural gas prices. Careful consideration of power supply options led to the decision to refuel or remove from service one-third of its coal energy conversion units. These plans include:
  • Investing $15 million to convert the company’s 110-megawatt (MW) Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes to a natural gas peaking facility in 2015, thereby transforming Laskin into the company’s first all-natural gas fueled facility.
  • Retire one of three coal-fired units at Minnesota Power’s 225-MW Taconite Harbor facility in Schroeder while maintaining Units 1 and 2, which both comply with current and pending environmental regulations.

“We believe re-fueling Laskin and retiring one generating unit at our Taconite Harbor facility are the most cost effective solutions for our small coal units to comply with state and federal regulations,” said Minnesota Power Vice President of Strategy and Planning Al Rudeck.

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