January 20, 2022
North Dakota

Wind farm planned for McLean County would be North Dakota’s largest

Amy R. Sisk | The Bismarck Tribune | January 18, 2022 | bismarcktribune.com

Great River Energy plans to receive power from what’s expected to become the largest standalone wind farm in North Dakota, slated for southern McLean County near Coal Creek Station.

The Minnesota-based power cooperative and wind developer Apex Clean Energy announced the 400-megawatt Discovery Wind project Tuesday, two weeks after GRE informed regulators in Minnesota that such an effort was in the works.

The transmission line that runs from Coal Creek to Minnesota will carry electricity generated by Discovery Wind. When the wind farm is producing power, that electricity will displace energy from Coal Creek under an agreement reached with affiliates of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp., which are purchasing the coal-fired power plant and power line from GRE.

McLean County imposed restrictions on wind power two years ago when GRE planned to shut down Coal Creek and add wind farms in the area. The county is in the heart of North Dakota’s Coal Country.

The planned closure of North Dakota’s largest coal plant prompted state officials to aid in the search for a new owner to keep the facility running and jobs intact. They found one in Bismarck-based Rainbow, which has long said it intends to connect renewables to the line in addition to operating Coal Creek.

The companies “have been working with county and state officials to ensure the success of the project,” GRE spokesperson Therese LaCanne said.

McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson said the county is working with wind companies to draft new policies surrounding wind power that would facilitate greater input from landowners and the public.

Rainbow intends to install a system at Coal Creek to capture the plant’s carbon emissions. Operating the technology would eat up a significant amount of electricity the plant produces, freeing up space for wind power on the transmission line.

“This announcement shows our dedication to being partners in clean energy with Great River Energy, and it delivers on verbal promises we made when we first announced our intent to purchase Coal Creek Station,” said Stacy Tschider, president of Rainbow’s affiliates. “This is just one of many carbon neutral objectives we intend to fulfill.”

GRE plans to continue purchasing power from Coal Creek for the next 10 years under an agreement with Rainbow. It is also converting its coal-fired Spiritwood Station near Jamestown to be fueled with natural gas.

The co-op estimates it will reduce its carbon emissions more than 80% by 2025, when Discovery Wind is expected to begin operating. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

GRE President and CEO David Saggau said GRE members “will enjoy stable wholesale electric rates for years while providing clean and reliable energy to Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin.”

Gov. Doug Burgum praised the wind announcement in social media posts Tuesday, saying, “We can export renewable energy without reducing the use of our reliable and affordable coal resources to supply baseload power with carbon capture and storage at Coal Creek Station.” Baseload refers to a source of electricity that provides a continuous output, such as a coal plant.

Recent wind farms built in North Dakota have ranged in size from 100 to 300 megawatts, according to a database from the North Dakota Public Service Commission. No single wind farm has exceeded the 400-megawatt size planned for Discovery Wind, though Allete operates wind projects built side-by-side in Morton, Oliver and Mercer counties which, combined, have a greater capacity.

The wind industry across the Upper Midwest faces a congested power grid, and the rate at which new projects have been built in North Dakota has slowed in recent years. At least one wind farm received word from a grid operator that it would need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in transmission upgrades if it’s to go forward.

Virginia-based Apex is developing another wind farm in North Dakota slated for Bowman County.

Apex President and CEO Mark Goodwin called the work by the companies to develop Discovery Wind and connect it to the Coal Creek power line an “innovative solution.”

“Not only will we deliver clean power to a major market, but we will be able to use capacity on an existing pathway to do so – a rare and valuable arrangement” in a saturated power market, he said.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/01/20/wind-farm-planned-for-mclean-county-would-be-north-dakotas-largest/