Alberta to Montana transmission line wins approval

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The Canadian portion of a 230 kV merchant transmission line stretching 346 kilometres from Lethbridge, Alberta, across the border to Great Falls, Montana, has received conditional approval from the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. The line will provide access to 600 MW of wind power, with half flowing north into Alberta and half south to Great Falls. All long term capacity rights on the line, sponsored by Montana Alberta Tie Ltd (MATL), have been sold to wind power companies with sites in north-central Montana, where the lack of high capacity transmission has stymied their ability to bring projects online. MATL is owned by Toronto's Tonbridge Power. MATL vice president Bob Williams says the board's decision is a major step in moving the project forward. But before the Alberta energy regulator will issue a final permit, it wants MATL to hold further discussions with affected landowners along the approved route "to address the mitigation of specific impacts" on their farming operations and land uses. "We heard the landowner concerns during the public hearing in November. We made commitments to the landowners on a resolution process and we are ready to live up to those commitments beginning immediately," says Williams. The line has already received the go-ahead from Canada's National Energy Board and the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but still needs approval from the US Department of Energy (DOE) before construction can begin. An environmental impact assessment was scheduled for release last month, to be followed by a public comment period, before the DOE releases its decision.

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