Building a legacy together
Basin Electric believes innovation and flexibility are key components of its efforts to maintain stable rates for its members. The cooperative’s members are partners in these initiatives.
When Basin Electric started researching wind generation, it was done in partnership with Class A members East River Electric Power Cooperative in South Dakota and Central Power Electric Cooperative in North Dakota. Those partnerships led to the construction of two large wind projects. In 2011, the cooperative commissioned the largest wind project in the nation owned solely by a cooperative, the 162-megawatt Crow Lake Wind Project in South Dakota. Before that, the PrairieWinds 1 project in North Dakota held that distinction, at 123 megawatts.
Environmental research at Basin Electric’s coal-based Dry Fork Station in Wyoming was spearheaded through a partnership between several entities including Basin Electric members Power River Energy Corporation and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. That partnership, the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, is leading to what Basin Electric hopes will be game-changing technology that is being tested at that power plant.
When the cooperative family does groundbreaking work together, big things are possible.
Long-standing leadership in renewables
For the first time in the cooperative’s history, Basin Electric will buy solar generation on a large scale to serve its membership. In September 2019, directors authorized the purchase of up to 300 megawatts of solar energy.
The board’s decision to add solar generation to Basin Electric’s resource portfolio is in response to our members’ desire for more renewable generation, as well as solar generation becoming an economic alternative to meet growing member needs. This competitive, low-cost renewable generation provides affordable, reliable power.
Solar generation provides power during daytime hours when Basin Electric’s members are using the most energy. When it’s hot in the summer, and members are using a lot of electricity, the sun tends to be shining. The capacity provided by solar generation adds value to the price.
Basin Electric’s first effort in renewables dates back to 2003, when Basin Electric entered into two long-term purchase power contracts with the 40-megawatt Edgeley (North Dakota) Wind Project and the 40-megawatt Hyde County Wind Project near Highmore, South Dakota.
The cooperative’s leadership in wind generation in the Upper Great Plains continues through both contracts for more generation, and the repowering of existing wind projects.
Basin Electric will begin purchasing the output from two new 200-megawatt wind projects that will come online in 2020: Burke Wind, located in North Dakota and owned by NextEra Energy Resources, and Prevailing Winds, located in South Dakota and owned by sPower.
At the same time, some of the wind projects Basin Electric purchases from are being updated with newer technology. A project is underway at the Wilton (North Dakota) Wind Project to repower turbines with newer technology so that each turbine can generate electricity more often. Thirty-three turbines were repowered at the Wilton II Wind Project,
and 33 turbines are being repowered at the Wilton I Wind Project. This work required that Basin Electric extend its contract for five years at one project, and sets a new, lower price for power from the other project.
Funding a viable solution
Basin Electric is dedicated to two research projects to demonstrate the feasibility of capturing carbon dioxide from an operating coal-based power plant and safely and permanently sequestering the greenhouse gas.
Both research projects are located at the cooperative’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette, Wyoming.
The Wyoming CarbonSAFE initiative, implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy, is focused on investigating the feasibility of underground carbon dioxide emissions storage from coal-based electric generation facilities. Feasibility will be determined by whether storage is found to be practical, secure, and permanent. Geologic formations below and near Dry Fork Station are being evaluated.
Analysis of the geologic cores, coupled with collected seismic survey data, may suggest carbon dioxide storage is technically feasible. Basin Electric directors voted to support the third phase of work of the CarbonSAFE
Wyoming project at their December 2019 meeting by committing up to $1.5 million in cash and/or in-kind services.
In a separate innovative initiative, Dry Fork Station serves as host for the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC), a research test facility where researchers will test carbon capture utilization and sequestration technologies. The ITC is one of only a handful of research and test facilities at an operating power plant in the world. The ability for researchers to conduct real-world testing at an active power plant alleviates typical concerns over being able to transfer technology from a lab to a working power plant. Researchers will have access to the equivalent of 20 megawatts of scrubbed flue gas from Dry Fork Station. The facility was awarded an ‘Innovative Partnership Certificate’ at the 2020 Climate Leadership Awards, recognizing the pioneering initiative that has brought together private and public leaders to drive the next generation of clean energy technology. In addition to hosting the facility, Basin Electric is supplying in-kind expertise with design, engineering, and construction management services at the Wyoming ITC.
These initiatives, plus Dakota Gas’ 20 years of experience in carbon management through its contracts to deliver carbon dioxide to Canadian oil fields for enhanced oil recovery, could uniquely position Basin Electric to benefit from the Internal Revenue Code Section 45Q tax credit. Recent legislation expanded this tax credit for carbon capture, utilization, and storage project developers, which should accelerate work on these projects, supporting the development and implementation of technologies that provide for continued use of coal in a carbon-constrained environment.
Transitioning from gas to fertilizers
Lignite coal is gasified at Basin Electric subsidiary Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant. It’s one of only two facilities like it in the world.
While that is remarkable, the Synfuels Plant’s transition from producing mainly synthetic natural gas to producing more fertilizers is perhaps even more extraordinary.
Dakota Gas has experienced benefits from its participation in N-7 LLC, which markets and distributes more than 4.5 million metric tons of fertilizer product from the Synfuels Plant near Beulah, North Dakota, and two OCI facilities, Iowa Fertilizer Company and OCI Partners in Texas. In addition, N-7 markets imported fertilizer products from OCI’s operations outside of North America.
Nitrogen fertilizers urea, ammonium sulfate, and anhydrous ammonia, as well as diesel exhaust fluid, are marketed and distributed by this alliance. Through N-7, Dakota Gas is able to better distribute to its target markets, more efficiently serve its customers, and be a dependable source of fertilizer for area farmers.
In addition to being used in their traditional applications, urea, anhydrous ammonia, and diesel exhaust fluid are also used at power plants to help remove oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in environmental control equipment.
Dakota Gas’ ammonia plant also produces a pure stream of liquid carbon dioxide, which is used in the oil industry to fracture oil wells in place of other chemicals. But liquid carbon dioxide has many other applications, including in the beverage and food processing industry. Dakota Gas is working to have its liquid carbon dioxide qualified as beverage grade.
Serving load growth
Basin Electric’s membership has been growing at more than twice the rate of the rest of the electric utility industry in the United States.
This has been true for the past several years. In January 2020, Basin Electric’s directors authorized the addition of a sixth 45-megawatt simple-cycle turbine at the Lonesome Creek Station near Watford City, North Dakota. Basin Electric continues to evaluate load growth and determine the most prudent, economic solution for serving it.
Basin Electric is obligated to ensure that it has enough power to meet its members’ needs. Basin Electric accomplishes this through its own generation, like power plants, and through power purchases.
In addition to capacity provided by its own generation, Basin Electric purchases capacity from power marketers, utilities, and others to help fulfill our capacity obligations to our members. In recent years, purchasing capacity on the market has provided an economic alternative to building additional generation.
The project to fit Laramie River Station Unit 1 with a selective catalytic reduction system to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in compliance with Phase 1 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze regulations is complete. The selective catalytic reduction technology became operational in 2019. The selective non-catalytic reduction equipment on Unit 2 and Unit 3 was operational in 2018. This work should ensure the long-term operation of the Laramie River Station.