Basin Electric Power Cooperative: Construction Complete on North Dakota Wind Farm

The first three wind turbines are part of a small project known as Minot Wind 2. Each turbine has a generating capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW). The other 77 are part of another project called PrairieWinds 1. Even though they’re two separate projects, the wind turbines for each wind power project are exactly the same. Construction on wind energy both projects began on August 10 and 18, respectively, this year.

When PrairieWinds 1 is completed, both projects will have a combined generating capacity of 120 MW, enough capacity to meet the needs of about 35,000 residential homes.

In 2005, Basin Electric’s membership passed a resolution requiring that 10 percent of their electricity demand be provided from renewable forms of energy. Ron Rebenitsch, Basin Electric’s manager of alternative technologies, said the member’s voice gave rise to Basin Electric’s journey into renewable energy. “Basin Electric has been working hard to meet that directive ever since, and today, the cooperative is emerging as a national leader in developing renewable energy in the region.”

Rebenitsch said that by the end of 2010, Basin Electric is on track to have renewable generation with an installed capacity equal to 20 percent of current member load. “Through direct investments and annual payments under power purchase agreements from other renewable resources, these projects represent a capital investment of more than $1 billion in renewable energy.”

Rebenitsch said the Minot 2 and PrairieWinds 1 represent a $250-million investment. Both are owned and operated by a new Basin Electric subsidiary called PrairieWinds ND 1, formed in 2008 to develop renewable energy projects. “The PrairieWinds 1 project will be the largest wind project owned and operated solely by a cooperative in the United States,” he said.

The Minot Wind 2 project interconnects with a substation owned by Central Power Electric Cooperative, Minot, a Basin Electric member cooperative. The PrairieWinds 1 project interconnects with a new substation that was built to connect to a Western Area Power Administration 115-kV transmission line.

Rebenitsch pointed out that the new substation was constructed in record time. “It’s the fastest our engineering group has ever designed and constructed a facility like this. I appreciate their efforts to complete the substation to meet the needs of the new wind project,” he said. “This also highlights the value of the long-standing partnership with Western on the Integrated System. Interconnecting to Western’s line, which crosses the project site, avoided the need for constructing about two miles of interconnection line and a 230-kilovolt interconnection substation. Western’s engineering support was critical to the success of this project.” Western is a Federal Power Marketing Administration.

The Minot wind projects are expected to need about eight full-time operations and maintenance employees.

In other wind project developments:

PrairieWinds SD 1, another Basin Electric subsidiary, continues planning and permitting for a 151.5-megawatt wind project in central South Dakota. “We’re currently in the environmental permitting process. We’re also working on engineering for the roads, substation and collector system, and micrositing the turbines,” Rebenitsch said. He said construction of the 101 wind turbines is scheduled to begin in mid 2010 and have it online by early 2011.

Basin Electric and NextEra Energy Resources signed an agreement Sept. 9 to develop another wind farm located in Day County near Groton, S.D. East River Electric Power Cooperative, Madison, S.D, will provide the transmission interconnection for the project.

This is the fifth agreement between Basin Electric and NextEra Energy with NextEra Energy building, owning and operating a large wind project and Basin Electric purchasing the electricity. The other four wind projects are located near Wilton (two phases) and Edgeley, N.D., and Highmore, S.D.

The 99-megawatt capacity Day County wind project will feature 66, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines, similar to the ones operating near Highmore, S.D., but with taller towers. Construction began in November 2009. It’s anticipated the project will be ready for commercial operation by May 2010.

For the first three years of commercial operation, Basin Electric has agreed to sell the output of the Day County project to Western. Western is also purchasing the output of the first phase of the Wilton Wind Energy Center – 49.5 megawatts – from Basin Electric in a short-term contract from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2012.

Late in 2008, NextEra Energy announced the expansion of its Wilton Wind Energy Center from 49.5 megawatts to 99 megawatts. Construction crews started work to install the 33, 1.5-megawatt turbines on June 26, 2009; the project was declared commercial on Oct. 31, 2009. Basin Electric has a long-term contract with NextEra to purchase the generation output from both phases of the Wilton Wind Energy Center.

Basin Electric is a consumer-owned, regional cooperative headquartered in Bismarck, N.D. It generates and transmits electricity to 136 member rural electric systems in nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. These member systems distribute electricity to about 2.8 million consumers.

Basin Electric’s generating resources include: two coal-based power plants in North Dakota – the Antelope Valley Station, Beulah, and the Leland Olds Station, Stanton; a coal-based power plant in Wyoming – the Laramie River Station, Wheatland; three peaking stations – the Spirit Mound Station, Vermillion, S.D.; the Groton Generation Station Groton, S.D., and the Wisdom Unit 2 Station, Spencer, Iowa; nine combustion-turbine generators (natural gas) in the Gillette, Wyo., area; four wind turbines – two near Minot, N.D., and two near Chamberlain, S.D.; and 80 wind turbines near Minot, N.D. (2010).

Basin Electric is also the sole purchaser of electricity from sources operated by others including: six baseload waste-heat stations owned and operated by Ormat Technologies Inc. along the Northern Border Pipeline; the output of three wind farms owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources, Juno Beach, Fla. (These wind farms are located near Wilton and Edgeley/Kulm, N.D.; the other is near Highmore, S.D.)

Basin Electric has long-term, purchase power agreements of varying capacities from the George Neal Station Unit 4 (coal-based), Sioux City, Iowa, operated by MidAmerican Energy; the Walter Scott, Jr. Energy Center (coal-based) units 3 and 4, Council Bluffs, Iowa, operated by MidAmerican Energy; the Wisdom Station (coal based), Spencer, Iowa, operated by Corn Belt Power Cooperative; peaking stations located in Spencer, Estherville, Pocahontas, and Webster City, Iowa; the Duane Arnold Energy Center (nuclear), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, operated by NextEra Energy Resources; the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska; and three Iowa wind farms – near Superior/Lakota, operated by Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative; in Hancock County operated by NextEra Energy Resources and in Palo Alto County operated by Crosswind Energy, LLC.