Basin Electric moving forward with Lonesome Creek Station Unit 6

Lonesome Creek Station is about to get a little less lonesome. 

At their January board meeting, Basin Electric directors authorized a sixth 45-megawatt natural gas generation unit to be added to the generation facility near Watford City, North Dakota, to help support members’ load growth, which has grown at twice the rate of the rest of the United States for the past several years. 

Trent Schwahn, Basin Electric electrical engineer III and Lonesome Creek Station Unit 6 project coordinator, says the project can come together relatively quickly, because when Units 4 and 5 were constructed in 2015 and 2016, provisions were put in place to easily add a sixth unit. “We have the land which has already been graded, the pipeline is already in place, and we know the approximate cost,” Schwahn says. 

In addition, the staff is already there and familiar with the facility, and there is an existing operations and maintenance building with spare parts on inventory. As an added bonus, General Electric had the exact turbine and generator package as is being used on Units 1-5 in stock, which shaved three to six months off the project schedule. 

A project of this size, while a pretty straightforward build for the most part, will still require collaboration with many other teams. Schwahn says engineering is working closely with the distributed generation team to coordinate with outages and market conditions to optimize the time the units will need to be offline during construction. 

They are also currently working with procurement to order equipment that requires a long lead time (10-12 months) to ensure equipment is onsite when it is needed. In addition, they will need to work with right-of- way to keep the current renter of the land surrounding the area in the loop about what is happening, as well as environmental, resource planning, finance, and many others. 

“There is a lot more to it than meets the eye,” Schwahn says. “By the time it’s all said and done, almost every team at Basin Electric will have worked on this project.”

Construction was originally expected to begin in early August and take one year to complete; however, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought about, the timeline is currently under review. 

“While loads have been changing with the current situation, Lonesome Creek Units 1-5 have still been running relatively hard,” says Becky Kern, director of long-term utility planning. “Adding the sixth unit would help to take some of the pressure off of the other five units and provide the reliability our members need.”

Employees are currently assembling a revised 2020 load forecast, since much of the load growth projected in the Bakken may not materialize as quickly as previously anticipated.