Apex Clean Energy is proposing a wind farm in southwestern North Dakota that could include the first large-scale battery storage facility in the state.
The project would involve putting up 74 wind turbines south of the cities of Bowman and Rhame. The wind farm’s capacity would be nearly 209 megawatts. Recent wind farms built in North Dakota range in size from 100 to 300 megawatts.
Apex seeks a permit from state regulators. The company included in its application plans to build a battery storage facility that would hold up to 100 megawatts of electricity generated by the wind turbines for as long as four hours before sending it into the power grid.
The lithium ion batteries would be stored inside 108 shipping containers. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems would maintain the right conditions for the batteries. The battery system would be connected to an adjacent substation, which ties into the grid.
The batteries would temporarily store electricity from the wind farm when production exceeds the demand for power or when there isn’t enough space on the transmission lines to carry more electricity, according to Apex’s application. A wind farm generates electricity only when the wind is blowing and its power is needed, which is one of the reasons why storage is an appealing idea.
“As you continue to see renewable energy deployment in the region, it is going to make the addition of storage that much more attractive and valuable,” said Chris Kunkle, senior manager of government and regulatory affairs for Apex.
Battery technology for the power sector is in its infancy and expensive. But the technology is advancing, and energy companies such as Apex are starting to consider it as they build new wind and solar farms.
Kunkle said Apex is “very serious” about including battery storage at its Bowman Wind project, but whether batteries materialize at the site depends on the wishes of potential customers.
Apex is in the process of identifying a potential power purchaser, such as a utility or industrial customer, according to its application. It also could sell its power directly into the Southwest Power Pool, an organization that operates the grid across the central United States from North Dakota to Texas.
Bowman Wind would cover 44,000 acres of land, or nearly 69 square miles. Apex anticipates the $420 million project would begin operating by the end of 2022. The company is developing one other wind farm in North Dakota called Homestead Wind northwest of Williston.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission is tasked with siting wind farms and will hold a hearing for Bowman Wind on June 24 at 8 a.m. Mountain time in the Bowman Lodge and Convention Center, 207 Highway 12 W. in Bowman.
Apex’s project application comes as wind farm proposals appear to have slowed in North Dakota over the past year.
“The interconnection costs to the grid have become excessive,” PSC Chair Julie Fedorchak said at a recent meeting of the three-member panel of regulators.
Proposed wind projects go through reviews with grid operators before they’re built. Some slated for various parts of North Dakota have learned that, due to congestion on transmission lines, they would need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in grid upgrades to connect smoothly, a cost that makes a project infeasible.
Transmission congestion has become more problematic in recent years in the Upper Midwest as new sources of power generation such as wind farms are added to the grid.
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