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Friday, May 7, 2010

Dakota Wind Energy Gets 300 Megawatts of Big Stone II Transmission

Once upon a time, the Big Stone II power plant was going to need 600 megawatts of electrical transmission capacity. Then Otter Tail and other backers backed out, realizing like numerous other investors that since the business case for coal doesn't make as much sense as the case for wind.

But Big Stone II was supposed to be a Pyrrhic victory for environmentalists, according to various conservative commentators and governors desperately propping up their fossil fuel fetish. With Big Stone II dead, wind energy would lose access to the big transmission capacity needed to make more wind farms feasible.

What's that sound I hear? Wind picking up?

Dakota Wind Energy, along with its managing member, National Wind, announces today the acceptance by the Midwest ISO (“MISO”) of its 300 megawatt (MW) interconnection request into the Big Stone II Transmission backfill study group. Regional electrical transmission operator, MISO, identified wind projects that can utilize, or “backfill,” the electrical capacity once reserved for the Big Stone II coal plant. As a result, Dakota Wind Energy’s interconnection request will move into a more advanced MISO study phase, in which additional required system upgrades will be identified. Once all of the upgrades are studied and established, Dakota Wind Energy can enter into a generator interconnection agreement, allowing us to interconnect the initial 300 MW portion of the Dakota Wind Energy project to the transmission grid [press release, National Wind, 2010.05.05].

Note the word initial. Dakota Wind Energy has leased 60,000 acres in Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties, with the intention of building up to 750 megawatts of wind energy generation capacity. 750 megawatts. That's more than Big Stone II. And that's community-owned South Dakota power. From a fuel source that transports itself. A fuel source that will be as plentiful 10, 20, or a 133 years from now.

I know, I know, Mike, contrary to our experience walking slantwise this week, the wind doesn't always blow, and that plays heck on meeting load requirements. But I imagine the development of wind power will go somewhat like the development of ethanol (as a Republican friend suggested to me earlier this week). Both renewable energy sources require significant technological improvements (wind: massive storage; ethanol: cellulosic fuel stocks). But as we develop wind and ethanol in their imperfect forms now, we'll build the momentum and market for engineers and entrepreneurs to develop the technologies that will make renewables more efficient and profitable.

And contrary to the wishful whimpering of the coal criers, the collapse of Big Stone II doesn't seem to have slowed down wind development one bit. Forward!


  1. Climate change makes for more unsettled weather patterns.

    What if transmission technologies evolved to house EM corridors along Interstate highways to power mag-lev high speed lanes?

  2. Mag-lev down I-29? Great idea! Could we double up transmission and use like that?

  3. I've been conceptualizing a machine that bales snow, too.

    Maybe Stan G. will chime in here and remind me that it's just my normal delusional ranting.

  4. Larry,

    You mean me? Did I ever suggest that you engage in delusional ranting?

    "Climate change makes for more unsettled weather patterns."

    ... until our planet turns into another Venus, in which case the weather will settle down.

    "What if transmission technologies evolved to house EM corridors along Interstate highways to power mag-lev high speed lanes?"

    ... Great idea!

    "I've been conceptualizing a machine that bales snow, too."

    ... I want one. It's supposed to snow constantly up here in Lead until Sunday.


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