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United States

The Dakotas get a wind plant each

The two states with the best wind resources in the US, North and South Dakota, will finally have major wind farms before the end of 2003. Basin Electric Cooperative and FPL Energy agreed last month to build two 40 MW projects.

The Dakotas have active wind advocacy communities and a congressional delegation supportive of the wind industry, but have been unable to attract major projects largely because their coal fired power plants produce more energy than the population needs and exporting the energy to the large population centres in Wisconsin and Minnesota is out of the question due to oversubscribed transmission lines.

Basin Electric, which generates power for 122 member utilities, will use the wind generated by the projects to serve local loads and will strip the green attributes from the projects to use in its Prairie Winds green marketing program, says Ron Rebenitsch of Basin Electric. The program charges a $3 monthly premium for each 100 kWh block, and Rebenitsch says the co-operative's members are receptive to wind power as long is the price is right. "Wind power has to stand on its own economically and the green tag program will help us tremendously," he says.

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat and a long-time supporter of wind power, set a goal of developing 200 MW of wind by February 2004 at a North Dakota wind conference he sponsored earlier this year. "Our goal should be to seize the opportunities that wind and other natural resources in North Dakota present in order to create new economic opportunities and jobs in the state," Dorgan says. "This project and investment takes us a giant step toward that goal. Clean and limitless energy makes sense for North Dakota and it makes sense for America."

One 40 MW project will go up in central South Dakota near Chamberlain, where Basin Electric already has two of its four Nordex 1.3 MW turbines. They were erected in November 2001 and became fully operational in January 2002. The other project will be located in central North Dakota near Minot, where the co-operative has two Nordex 1.3 MW machines under construction. That 40 MW project requires 11 miles of 115 kV transmission line. FPL Energy and Basin Electric have yet to decide on turbines for the two new projects. FPL Energy, the world's largest operator of wind farms, runs 26 wind facilities in nine states.

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