The plan, according to Hoeven, is to bring more money into North Dakota by increasing energy exports, no matter how it is generated. Today nearly all electricity in North Dakota is produced from coal. Only five utility grade wind turbines operate. "Sixty percent of the energy we generate is exported," says Hoeven. "We would like to increase that significantly, not only from wind, but also from additional clean coal technology." Currently the state has about 4000 MW of coal plant, far more than is required by the population of only 650,000.
Life made easier
"The bills will make life easier for us," says Scott Piscitello of UK wind power developer Renewable Energy Systems, currently active in Texas. "They will encourage wind development by lowering taxes on the projects." Piscitello was one of several wind advocates and developers who testified before the North Dakota legislature in favour of the laws and his company is also one of a number of developers who have already bought land rights for wind projects in the state.
The legislation does not deal with the problem of getting new generation to regional power markets. Transmission out of the area is notoriously weak and already largely taken up by exports of power from the state's coal plant.
Jay Haley, a North Dakota wind advocate and principal in EAPC Architects & Engineers, says the state can support a series of well-placed small projects of up to about 100 MW each, but that will not go very far in a state with a wind power potential of about 138,000 MW. "We're already working now on what we need to do to remedy the transmission situation," Haley says. "We can export smaller quantities for the next three to five years, but that doesn't open up the playground like we want."
An interstate issue
Hoeven acknowledges the problem and says transmission is an interstate issue that will have to be dealt with in the regulatory arena. His push for a generation increase from clean coal will help wind, he says.
"This is important because wind can then share the transmission that will be built for these projects," he says. "Wind and clean coal at the same time will create synergies and cost-sharing for transmission."