Proposed ND projects would expand wind energy capacity in region

Source: By Keith Norman, Inforum • Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Minnesota electrical cooperative is looking to meet its expansion needs with a new wind energy project in North Dakota, according to Jon Brekke, vice president and chief marketing officer for Great River Energy.

“When you compare wind to other new sources of energy, wind is comparable with or without the production tax credit,” he said.

The production tax credit is a federal incentive program that allows tax breaks for wind energy development. It expires in 2020.

Great River Energy announced a purchase agreement with NextEra Energy to buy the electricity generated by the planned Emmons-Logan Wind Energy Center. Plans call for about 133 turbines generating 300 megawatts of electricity in Emmons and Logan counties. Construction is planned for 2019 with completion by 2020, Brekke said. The project has a preliminary cost estimate of $450 million.

Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said the sunset date for the production tax credit is moving some projects forward.

“That’s why there is a push right now,” he said.

Brandenburg said transmission line capacity is increasing at the same time.

“The Big Stone South to Ellendale line frees up transmission capacity,” he said. “Transmission (line limits) was the key for many years in wind development.”

Construction began on the Big Stone South to Ellendale transmission line in 2016, with completion scheduled for 2019.

The 165-mile line will carry electricity from southern North Dakota to Big Stone, S.D., where it will connect to other power lines. The project is owned by Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Otter Tail Power Co. and has an estimated cost of $380 million.

GRE provides electricity to 28 electrical cooperatives in rural and suburban Minnesota and a small area of Wisconsin, Brekke said. Minnesota requires 25 percent of electricity sold within the state come from renewable resources such as wind and solar.

“We have a nice division with wind and solar,” he said. “But there still is a need for other resources. Our existing coal plants are part of that.”

Growth in the Minnesota electrical market has been flat since 2008, Brekke said. GRE is now planning for a 1 percent annual growth to be met with wind energy because it is economically feasible, Brekke said.

“Wind (energy development) is driven by economics, especially when looking at new additions,” he said. “Economics and increased customer preference for renewable.”

Brandenburg said commissioners in Emmons and Logan counties have approved the wind energy project, although a hearing before the North Dakota Public Service Commission has not been scheduled.

The Public Service Commission hearing on the Merricourt Wind Farm that was scheduled for Wednesday, June 28, was postponed because of problems with public notices regarding the hearing. The hearing will be rescheduled for a later date, and the new date will be advertised through public notices and a news release.

The Merricourt Wind Farm is being built by EDF Renewable Development and will generate 150 megawatts of electricity utilizing 75 turbines. Foundation and road construction are planned for 2018 with turbine installation scheduled for 2019. The project has an estimated cost of $250 million.

Otter Tail Power Co. announced in 2016 it would purchase the wind farm from EDF after construction is complete.

Brandenburg said he anticipates there may be more interest in wind energy in south-central North Dakota before 2020.

“All the major utilities are buying the power because it works,” he said.