The co-op plans to offer the PrairieWinds power program in September to farms, homes, businesses, and industrial facilities served by member electric co-ops for a $3 monthly premium for each 100 kWh block bought. "This program is for consumers who want more from their power supplier and are willing to pay a little extra to support wind power," says Ron Rebenitsch of Basin Electric.
Rebenitsch says the co-op discovered a considerable declining economy of scale when investigating wind turbine proposals. The capital costs as well as the operations and maintenance costs for just one turbine at the Chamberlain site is $0.061/kWh, but the cost drops to $0.052/kWh for three. Basin Electric believes subscriptions to the PrairieWinds program will support only two turbines at a cost of $0.055/kWh, but it has left space at the site for a third.
Much of these cost estimates are driven by how the co-op defines wind turbine life and capacity factor. Rebenitsch says the co-op down rated turbine performance to a conservative estimate for several reasons: megawatt sized turbines have yet to be tested in South Dakota's extreme temperature spans and there is no site wind data -- Basin Electric is relying on nearby airport data. "We are proceeding at some risk," Rebenitsch says. The co-op has lowered the expected capacity factor to under 32%.
Basin Electric has 119 member electric co-ops, which have 1.5 million customers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico. Its generation consists of 3304 MW of coal.