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Published December 31, 2009, 09:30 AM

Nation’s largest cooperative-owned wind project fully operational near Minot, ND

By: Press Release, Basin Electric Power Cooperative

BISMARCK, N.D. – Basin Electric ended the year by making history. The nation’s largest wind project owned solely by a cooperative, located near Minot, N.D., went into operation in the remaining hours of 2009.

The last 10 turbines of the 77-turbine project went into operation at 8:25 p.m. on Dec. 30, meeting the cooperative’s aggressive timeline to complete the project in 2009.

For the past five months, crews from contractors RMT and General Electric (GE) have been working day and night, seven days a week to complete this project.

“They worked in snow, rain, wind and in the dark, but they got it done – and safely,” says Ron Rebenitsch, Basin Electric manager of alternative technologies. “The employees from RMT and GE have worked tirelessly on this project and demonstrated true commitment to completing this project in a timely manner.”

“This project represents a significant contribution to Basin Electric’s – and North Dakota’s energy picture,” says Wayne Backman, Basin Electric senior vice president of Generation. “With the completion of the wind project in Minot and other projects currently in development, we will be on track to have renewable energy generation with an installed capacity equal to 20 percent of current member load by the end of 2010.”

This greatly exceeds the resolution Basin Electric’s membership passed in 2005 requiring that 10 percent of their electricity demand be provided from renewable forms of energy. Through direct investments and annual payments under power purchase agreements from other renewable resources, these projects represent a capital investment of more than $1 billion in renewable energy, with more than 600 megawatts of wind generation expected by the end of 2010. This is enough capacity to power the average annual energy needs of 175,000 homes, according to Backman. The Minot wind project alone represents a $250-million investment, according to Rebenitsch.

Rebenitsch said many additional parties assisted in the development of the project.

“Verendrye Electric Cooperative (Velva, N.D). provided a tremendous local force throughout the development of this project,” Rebenitsch says. “Bruce Carlson (Verendrye Electric general manager) has been one of the biggest supporters of this project.”

“This is a dream come true for me and for Verendrye Electric,” Carlson says. “This goes back to the late 70s and early 80s when Verendrye Electric partnered with the Department of Energy on a wind data collection project at the former radar base site south of Minot. We knew we had good data then, and it took Basin Electric and great support from Verendrye members/landowners to finally pull this together, and I’m extremely proud.”

State and federal agencies also played a key role in the project. “I’d like to thank the North Dakota Public Service Commission, along with other state and federal regulators for their assistance and commitment to seeing this project through and their commitment to wind development in North Dakota,” Rebenitsch says.

The Minot Wind 2 project interconnects with a substation owned by Central Power Electric Cooperative, Minot, a Basin Electric member cooperative. The PrairieWinds 1 project interconnects with a new substation that was built to connect to a Western Area Power Administration (Western) 115- kilovolt transmission line.

“This also highlights the value of the long-standing partnership with Western on the Integrated System. Interconnecting to Western’s line, which crosses the project site, avoided the need for constructing about two miles of interconnection line and a 230-kV interconnection substation,” Rebenitsch said. “Western’s engineering support was critical to the success of this project.” Western is a Federal Power Marketing Administration.

The Minot wind projects are expected to need about eight full-time operations and maintenance employees.

In other wind project developments:

PrairieWinds SD 1, another Basin Electric subsidiary, continues planning and permitting for a 151.5-megawatt wind project in central South Dakota. “We’re currently in the environmental permitting process. We’re also working on engineering for the roads, substation and collector system, and micrositing the turbines,” Rebenitsch said. He said construction of the 101 wind turbines is scheduled to begin in mid 2010 and have it online by early 2011.

Basin Electric and NextEra Energy Resources signed an agreement Sept. 9 to develop another wind farm located in Day County near Groton, S.D. East River Electric Power Cooperative, Madison, S.D, will provide the transmission interconnection for the project.

This is the fifth agreement between Basin Electric and NextEra Energy with NextEra Energy building, owning and operating a large wind project and Basin Electric purchasing the electricity. The other four wind projects are located near Wilton (two phases) and Edgeley, N.D., and Highmore, S.D.

The 99-megawatt capacity Day County wind project will feature 66, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines, similar to the ones operating near Highmore, S.D., but with taller towers. Construction began in November 2009. It’s anticipated the project will be ready for commercial operation by May 2010.

For the first three years of commercial operation, Basin Electric has agreed to sell the output of the Day County project to Western.

Western is also purchasing the output of the first phase of the Wilton Wind Energy Center – 49.5 megawatts – from Basin Electric in a short-term contract from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2012.

Late in 2008, NextEra Energy announced the expansion of its Wilton Wind Energy Center from 49.5 megawatts to 99 megawatts. Construction crews started work to install the 33, 1.5-megawatt turbines on June 26, 2009; the project was declared commercial on Oct. 31, 2009. Basin Electric has a long-term contract with NextEra to purchase the generation output from both phases of the Wilton Wind Energy Center.


Basin Electric is a consumer-owned, regional cooperative headquartered in Bismarck, N.D. It generates and transmits electricity to 136 member rural electric systems in nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. These member systems distribute electricity to about 2.8 million consumers.

Basin Electric’s generating resources include: two coal-based power plants in North Dakota – the Antelope Valley Station, Beulah, and the Leland Olds Station, Stanton; a coal-based power plant in Wyoming – the Laramie River Station, Wheatland; three peaking stations – the Spirit Mound Station, Vermillion, S.D.; the Groton Generation Station Groton, S.D., and the Wisdom Unit 2 Station, Spencer, Iowa; nine combustion-turbine generators (natural gas) in the Gillette, Wyo., area; four wind turbines – two near Minot, N.D., and two near Chamberlain, S.D.; and 80 wind turbines near Minot, N.D. (2010). Basin Electric is also the sole purchaser of electricity from sources operated by others including: six baseload waste-heat stations owned and operated by Ormat Technologies Inc. along the Northern Border Pipeline; the output of three wind farms owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources, Juno Beach, Fla. (These wind farms are located near Wilton and Edgeley/Kulm, N.D.; the other is near Highmore, S.D.) Basin Electric has long-term, purchase power agreements of varying capacities from the George Neal Station Unit 4 (coal-based), Sioux City, Iowa, operated by MidAmerican Energy; the Walter Scott, Jr. Energy Center (coal-based) units 3 and 4, Council Bluffs, Iowa, operated by MidAmerican Energy; the Wisdom Station (coal based), Spencer, Iowa, operated by Corn Belt Power Cooperative; peaking stations located in Spencer, Estherville, Pocahontas, and Webster City, Iowa; the Duane Arnold Energy Center (nuclear), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, operated by NextEra Energy Resources; the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska; and three Iowa wind farms – near Superior/Lakota, operated by Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative; in Hancock County operated by NextEra Energy Resources and in Palo Alto County operated by Crosswind Energy, LLC. For more information, go to