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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Basin Electric Suspends NextGen Coal Plant; DoE Cancels EIS

Last year Basin Electric said it was "re-evaluating the timeline" for its NextGen coal-fired power plant near Selby. Looks like the re-evaluating is over: NextGen is nixed.

From today's Federal Register:

Western Area Power Administration

Notice of Cancellation of Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed NextGen Project Near Selby, Walworth County, SD (DOE/EIS-0401)
AGENCY: Western Area Power Administration, DOE.
ACTION: Cancellation of Environmental Impact Statement.
SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Western Area Power Administration (Western) is issuing this notice to advise the public that it is cancelling the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on an interconnection request by the Basin Electric Power Cooperative (BEPC). BEPC proposed to design, construct, operate, and maintain a 500- to 700-megawatt base load, coal-fired generation facility near Selby, Walworth County, South Dakota, and interconnect it with Western's transmission system, thus triggering a NEPA review of Western's action to allow the interconnection. BEPC has notified Western it is suspending further action on its proposed project [Timothy J. Meeks, Administrator, FR Doc. 2010-32121 Filed 12-21-10; 8:45 am, BILLING CODE 6450-01-P].

Basin Electric's webpage for the project is gone; you can still read up on NextGen's specs on the WAPA's site and in the South Dakota PUC docket. That's 700 more megawatts of coal-fired power the industry has decided we just don't need. That's also $2.5 billion in construction dollars, 1700 temporary construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs that won't be coming to Walworth County.

Not getting nixed: Basin Electric's Prairie Winds SD1 wind farm, scheduled to start pumping out 150 megawatts of clean wind power in 2011. Estimated cost: $350 million.

Again, check that math: $350 million gets 150 MW in wind power. That's $2.3 million per megawatt. NextGen would have cost $2.5 billion to get 700 MW in coal power. That's $3.6 million per megawatt. As I've said before, it's not envirowhackos driving the industry away from coal power. It's good old economics.

Update 10:31 CST: Plains Justice is also pleased.


  1. Good for Basin! Good for us all and better yet for our grandchildren! It’s important to do the right thing to help stop the devastation coming our way from human-carbon-produced greenhouse gasses and climate change. It’s also important to do the economically smart thing and the strategically smart thing to move our nation into leadership with clean energy technology.

    Coal-sourced electricity is the old technology that produces the greatest harm. Reducing our dependence on coal and switching to wind and solar only helps in the transition to a clean energy economy. South Dakotans do not owe it to Wyoming or to West Virginia to increase coal consumption. We do owe it to ourselves to take every opportunity possible to expand wind energy development in South Dakota, to become a major supplier of wind energy to light up the nation and to become America’s leading clean energy state. Why not produce the energy here and make our state wealthy?

  2. Cory, don't get into the economics of the issue without putting in a factor that acknowledges that the wind towers only generate power about 50% of the time, because the wind doesn't always blow. In addition to the cost of the wind generation, you must have duplicate generation capacity, such as Basin is building at Deer Creek near Buffalo Ridge,(natural gas) so that we still can run our air conditioners on those hot windless summer days. It may be healthy, but it's not more economical.

  3. When is someone going to develop really big batteries for those wind turbines? (Probably not until we quit relying on cheap, dirty coal?)

  4. Kelly Fuller12/23/2010 8:11 AM

    Work on batteries for storage of renewable energy is ongoing.

    Deer Creek Station will use natural gas for as long as natural gas is cheap. It'll be gasified coal if that's ever cheaper, as the project connects to the Northern Border pipeline, which is the carrier for the synthetic fuel made from coal at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah, North Dakota.

    Basin Electric refers to the synthetic fuel it creates from coal as "natural gas." See, for instance, this website. http://www.dakotagas.com/

    Northern Border pipeline: http://www.dakotagas.com/Gas_Pipeline/index.html

  5. To follow up on Susan's comment, each MW of the coal plant would generate roughly 7.9 million kwh a year. Each MW of the wind farm would generate roughly 3.7 million kwh a year. Wind can be part of the solution but it cannot be the sole solution.

    RJ Traver

  6. But RJ, coal won't be able to be any part of the solution, since it will run out. The wind doesn't blow every day, but it will blow forever. Plus, we pay a higher price for that temprorarily constant coal power in pollution and health impacts.

    Uff da: the total cost-benefit spreadsheet couold be complicated!


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