Portland General Electric has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Grid United and ALLETE Inc. in the development of the North Plains Connector, an approximately 415-mile high-voltage direct-current transmission line to be constructed with endpoints near Bismarck, North Dakota and Colstrip, Montana. The parties will now work to finalise definitive agreements regarding PGE’s participation, which is expected to involve a 20% ownership share of the project.

The North Plains Connector will be the nation’s first HVDC transmission connection among three regional US electric energy markets – the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the Western Interconnection and the Southwest Power Pool – providing additional flexibility and the sharing of resources across multiple time zones.  It will more than double the transfer capacity between the eastern and western US electric grids.

“The North Plains Connector is a key step in serving the growing needs of customers … ” said Maria Pope, PGE President and CEO. “Additional transmission capacity will provide access to renewable energy over a wider and diverse geographic area, helping to deliver economic and environmental benefits.”

The North Plains Connector is one of the ways PGE is working collaboratively across the region to find solutions to nationwide transmission congestion. The new transmission infrastructure would provide PGE with 600 MW of transfer capacity, access to diverse energy resources, enhanced wholesale markets and ease congestion on the existing western transmission system.

The project represents an approximately $3.2 billion total investment in Montana and North Dakota and is expected to create over 600 jobs during construction. Once built, this new line will also enable additional energy production in Montana and North Dakota.

Under the terms of the MoU, Grid United will continue to fund the development of North Plains Connector. PGE would invest when project regulatory approvals and permits are in place.