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United States

Grid space for 500 MW in North and South Dakota

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A recent study by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) could work to quadruple the amount of wind power generated in North and South Dakota and open the gates for extra electricity to be sold in neighbouring Minnesota and Iowa. The study shows that the transmission grid can accommodate the addition of 500 MW of new wind power without system upgrades, meaning that further wind development could happen much sooner than if transmission lines had to be built. "We looked at the Dakotas to see if the transmission system loaded when the wind is blowing," says Ed Weber of WAPA. "What we found is that there are very few hours in the year when wind generation would have to be curtailed because of transmission congestion." At present, North and South Dakota have approximately 110 MW of wind power combined. The extra megawatts would provide enormous potential across state lines. "I would say there are several wind developers in the region who would like to market that extra energy to Minnesota and Iowa -- two states with renewables portfolios," says Weber, referring to mandates for the minimum proportion of renewable generation in electricity supply portfolios. "There's very good wind in the Dakotas but a lot more people in Minnesota and Iowa." The study looked at seven wind projects in the two Dakotas. It indicated that some overloads and dynamic stability problems resulted when wind generation was added, but that new transmission technology, such as dynamic line rating and reconductoring, could mitigate those problems. Also, during off-peak periods there would be non-firm capacity. Thus, extra wind power could get onto the system on an off-peak or non-firm basis. "It's a fairly technical study and that was disconcerting to some of the legislators," says Weber. "But for it to be meaningful you have to eventually get down into the weeds or nothing ever gets built."

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