The US Department of Energy (DOE) has identified several potential sites for development of wind farms and transmission lines in the state of North Dakota, according to Mark Trechock of the Dakota Resource Council. It is one of the government's first actions for its Wind Powering America initiative -- which calls for some 80,000 MW of wind capacity in the country by 2020 (Windpower Monthly, July 1999). The DOE intends to develop wind power for export to Minnesota, or more specifically, to help utility Northern State Power to meet the next 130 MW phase of its 400 MW wind power mandate in Minnesota (Windpower Monthly, February 1999). The DOE is "ready to spend some money," Trechock says. DOE funds would boost a current study underway by the Western Area Power Administration, a federal power marketer, to upgrade its transmission lines, adds Trechock. According to the DOE, 100 MW of wind can be developed within the existing transmission system, but it is hoping to see 1000-2000 MW of wind capacity in the state. A number of ideas were discussed at a June teleconference between North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, DOE senior officials and representatives of North Dakota advocacy groups, utilities and government. "It was an opportunity to talk with people interested in furthering wind power in the state," says the DOE's Tom Hall. In its North Dakota campaign, the DOE has gone to great lengths to avoid antagonising the state's powerful lignite industry. The Lignite Energy Council has substantial political clout -- enough to kill two recent legislative resolutions calling for studies of green pricing and the economic effects of wind development. The DOE's Dan Adamson said to the Fargo Forum newspaper, "It's not intended to imply anything bad about lignite. It's about doing something on top of it. People need low cost energy. This is a supplement, not intended to displace." The DOE has also discussed setting up wind technician training programs in the state. It plans to follow up its teleconference with a meeting in North Dakota i the autumn. "That might yield some specific ideas," says Hall.
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