By Wayne Ortman, The Associated PressBasin Electric Power Cooperative and NextEra Energy announced Wednesday that they will partner in a 66-turbine wind farm in northeastern South Dakota that will eventually provide electricity for rural electric systems.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Basin Electric Power Cooperative and NextEra Energy announced Wednesday that they will partner in a 66-turbine wind farm in northeastern South Dakota that will eventually provide electricity for rural electric systems.
Construction of the 99-megawatt wind farm near Groton is expected to begin this fall, and it could be operational in mid 2010, the companies said. The project will help Basin Electric toward its goal of getting 10 percent of its electricity from renewable forms of energy.
“This project is going to bring new jobs, a quarter billion dollar investment, and green energy to South Dakota,” said Dusty Johnson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. “That doesn’t happen every day.”
It’s the fifth such arrangement between Bismarck, N.D.-based Basin Electric and NextEra, a subsidiary of Florida-based FPL Group. NextEra will build, own and operate the Day County Wind Farm. Basin Electric will purchase the power and distribute it.
Basin Electric is a consumer-owned cooperative that generates and transmits electricity to 136 member rural electric systems in nine states. One of its members, East River Electric Power Cooperative of Madison, will provide existing or new transmission lines to serve the wind farm.
Basin Electric and NextEra have partnered on wind farms in Wilton and Edgeley, in North Dakota, and in Highmore in South Dakota.
Johnson, the state utilities commission chairman, noted that much of the transmission system that will serve the wind farm was built initially for two natural gas-fired peaking plants near Groton, and that some of the electricity will feed pumping stations for the TransCanada Keystone crude oil pipeline being built through eastern South Dakota.
“I think for our country to really get it right we need both traditional and alternative energy generation, and the good news for our region and for this state and for the cooperative members of South Dakota is that East River Electric and Basin Electric do those two things very, very well,” Johnson said.
Basin Electric will sell the electricity to the Western Area Power Administration for the first three years of operation. The power administration is part of the U.S. Department of Energy and sells electricity produced by power plants on the Missouri River.
Hydroelectric production declined during drought this decade and the power administration has been forced to buy power elsewhere at higher costs to meet demand. The reservoirs are at normal operating levels, but electric generation will lag for a few more years, said power administration head Tim Meeks.
“It is a good deal for us,” he said. “It allows us the ability to serve our customers and meet our commitments, and I believe that it is the model that can be used in going forward.”