Minnesota Power is going all green.
The Duluth-based utility on Tuesday announced plans to produce coal-free energy at its electrical generation facilities by 2035 and deliver 100 percent carbon-free energy to customers by 2050.
“We are proud to be the first Minnesota utility to provide 50 percent renewable energy, but as we said when we reached this exciting milestone in December, our transformation to a sustainable energy future is not yet complete,” Bethany Owen, ALLETE president and chief executive officer said. “As a clean energy leader, we are meeting the challenge of climate change with a reliable energy supply while keeping costs affordable for customers in this region.”
Minnesota Power is an ALLETE company.
Two large coal-fired units at Minnesota Power's Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset are a major part of the carbon-free plan.
Boswell's Unit 3, a 335 megawatt generating facility that began operating in 1973, will be retired by 2030.
Boswell's Unit 4, a 468 megawatt generating facility that began operating in 1980, will be transformed to a coal-free energy source by 2035.
The two units for decades have provided reliable, affordable power to Minnesota Power customers, including the iron ore industry, paper plants and other large industrial customers.
“Boswell 3 has been a strong backbone and will continue to be for the next decade,” Josh Skelton, Minnesota Power chief operating officer said. “Boswell 4 is critical to our customers and we want to continue to provide safe, reliable, affordable power.”
Although Boswell 3 will be shut down, Boswell 4 will continue to operate into the future under a different energy source, Skelton said.
To help replace Boswell's capacity, Minnesota Power will be adding 400 new megawatts of wind and solar energy.
While developing wind energy is a challenge in northeastern Minnesota, solar could be an option at Boswell, Skelton said.
“Wind up here isn't the greatest,” Skelton said. “But we think there's a lot to offer on the Boswell site as far as potential for a solar location.”
Other forms of carbon-free energy such as biomass, natural gas or hydrogen technology, will also be studied for Boswell, he said.
Boswell currently employs 165 plus about 23 support staff, Skelton said.
Over the next decade, staff skills at Boswell will be re-positioned as the transition occurs, he said.
In addition to carbon-free generation development, Minnesota Power will be investing in a modern, flexible transmission and distribution grid.
Its goal is to supply 70 percent renewable energy by 2030.
On February 1, the company files its Integrated Resource Plan with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The plan will provide details of Minnesota's Power clean-energy transition over the next 15 years.
“For Minnesota Power, this plan is about more than achieving the most significant sustainability goal in our long history,” Owen said. “It is about becoming 100 percent carbon-free the right way. Our diverse customer base relies on us to continue to provide reliable and affordable energy. We also believe it is critically important that our transition to carbon-free energy takes into account the needs of our employees and the residents of communities that have hosted our generation plants. By embracing this vision, Minnesota Power and our employees will continue to support the quality of life that has made our residents, businesses and communities organizations choose this region as their home.”
Minnesota Power serves 145,000 customers within a 26,000 square-mile area of northeastern Minnesota.