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Prairie power for coal co-ops

A coal generating electric co-operative in South Dakota is on a fast track to putting up two wind turbines to meet the demands of its PrairieWinds green marketing program. Basin Electric Power Co-operative expects the two 1.3 MW Nordex turbines, being installed near Chamberlain, to begin generating September 28. That means they could be the first in use in South Dakota followed closely by the Rosebud Tribal Casino turbine near Mission (Windpower Monthly May 2001).

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.

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