The grass around Minot may not be the only thing that’s green in a few years, as Basin Electric Power Cooperative is looking at two potential sites near town on which to build a wind farm.
Wayne Backman, senior vice president of generation at Basin Electric, was at the annual membership meeting of Verendrye Electric Cooperative Thursday evening at the North Dakota State Fair Center to discuss the project. He said the proposed site would provide about 100 megawatts of power. A second 100 megawatt site has also been proposed in central South Dakota. One megawatt can supply enough electricity for approximately 1,000 homes.
The two proposed sites near Minot are to the south and southwest of town, and Backman said they will be building several towers in the next few weeks to measure the speed and consistency of wind before deciding if any of the sites are desirable for a wind farm. Basin Electric will collect data for about two years before making any decision.
“What we want to do is put up some meteorological towers about 200 feet high to monitor the wind for some period,” he said. “We want to put five of those up to make sure that we get the site with the best portfolio of wind.”
Even if they do find a site with the proper amount of wind, there are still many other hurdles to be cleared. Backman said Basin Electric is working with landowners at the sites to see if they would be interested in entering into wind-leasing agreements. They would also need regulatory approval from the government. He also noted that transmission studies need to be done to make sure the power can get to where it is needed once it is produced. Even with all the other hurdles, Backman said one factor still trumps all others in importance.
“It all comes down to wind speed, everything else is secondary,” he said. “Obviously it’s equally important that landowners are willing to work with you, but you’ve got to have the wind speed. And that’s why those monitoring towers are so critical.”
If all goes well, he said construction on the wind farm could begin in the summer of 2009 with the facility up and running later that year. Backman said if they did things similarly to other projects they’re involved in, this wind farm would be comprised of 66 1 1/2-megawatt wind turbines and take up approximately 5,000-10,000 acres of land, which makes negotiating leases with the various landowners important work.
They only started working on the business case for the wind farm about four months ago, so the longest part of the whole project would be the two-year wind study. If the wind farm is built, Backman said it would be the first cooperative-owned wind farm in the United States.
In 2005 Basin Electric set a goal of having at least 10 percent of its power generated by green or renewable sources by 2010. Currently they stand at about 8 percent, but Backman said if the proposed wind farms in North Dakota and South Dakota both work out, that would get them to 10 percent.
Because it won’t stay consistently windy every day, even in North Dakota, Backman said government tax credits for producing power from renewable sources are key to making them attractive options. With the tax credits, he said the energy produced at a wind farm would cost about the same as at a coal plant.
While making renewable energy a larger part of their portfolio in the future is a goal of Basin Electric, Backman said they won’t be able to produce a majority of their power from renewable sources anytime soon.
“We still have to remember that wind is an intermittent resource, and when the wind doesn’t blow you have to make provisions to generate from other resources,” he said. “We think it would be really challenging to get anywhere near that 50 percent mark.”
15 June 2007
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