Basin Electric to build largest single-site generation project since 1980s

power plant site
Pioneer Generation Station, near Williston, North Dakota.

Basin Electric is pursuing its largest single-site electric generation project since the 1980s. The cooperative plans to construct up to 583 megawatts of natural gas generation near the existing Pioneer Generation Station, northwest of Williston, North Dakota. (Editor's note: The number of megawatts planned for this project has been adjusted since this press release was issued due to the project development process.) The project will be referred to as Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV.

Todd Telesz, Basin Electric CEO and general manager, said the project will serve the growing needs of the cooperative’s members with reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity in western North Dakota. 

Load forecasts show member cooperatives in the Bakken region will require more electricity by 2025. “Our cooperative members in western North Dakota and eastern Montana continue to grow quickly due to economic development related to oil and gas, and also more recently, data storage and the ancillary services that go along with this development,” Telesz said.

Preliminary estimates place the budget of the new plant at approximately $790 million.

“Basin Electric and our cooperative family’s network of distribution, transmission, and generation facilities helps our members thrive, and our all-of-the-above energy portfolio ensures the engine that feeds and fuels our nation remains reliable, affordable, and responsible,” Telesz said. “Cooperative electric power powered the coal industry’s growth in Wyoming decades ago, the ethanol industry’s boom in the mid-2000s, and the oil and gas industry’s operations today. Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV, along with other investments we have made in the region over the past decade, supports the development of the Bakken shale formation and enhances the energy security and independence of our nation.”

Gavin McCollam, Basin Electric senior vice president and chief operating officer, said Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV will address near-term load growth and long-term grid stability in the Bakken region.

“The first phase of the project includes one 240-megawatt simple-cycle combustion turbine, a series of reciprocating engines totaling 108 megawatts, and 15 miles of 345-kilovolt transmission, all to be in service in 2025,” McCollam said. “The second phase includes an additional 240-megawatt simple-cycle combustion turbine to be in service in 2026.”

Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV was approved by the Basin Electric board of directors at their September meeting. The cooperative submitted an application to the North Dakota Public Service Commission (NDPSC) on Oct. 7 for a Certificate of Site Compatibility. The NDPSC will hold a public hearing on Jan. 5, 2023, at 9 a.m. Central Time at the Williston City Hall to consider the application. Additional permits for the generation and transmission aspects of the project will be required before construction can begin.

The last time Basin Electric constructed a project of this size was Antelope Valley Station near Beulah, N.D., when the 450-megawatt first unit began commercial operation in 1984.