New technology will improve efficiency of Wilton Wind Projects

Wind is an integral piece of Basin Electric’s all-of-the-above energy portfolio, and through the years the co-op has invested more than $6 billion in renewable resources. In fact, by the end of last year, Basin Electric had more than 1,400 megawatts (MW) of green and renewable capability, including 1,360 MW of wind generation. 

Work was recently done at Wilton Wind Energy Center 1 and 2 near Wilton, North Dakota, (two wind projects from which the co-op purchases power) in an effort to improve efficiency. New technology was integrated into the towers to help improve their performance. Additionally, the Baldwin (near Baldwin, North Dakota) and Day County (in Day County, South Dakota) wind projects are expected to go through similar upgrades later this year.

Since the Wilton Wind projects were built in 2006 and 2009, there have been significant enhancements in turbine technology, so NextEra Energy Resources (the company that owns the projects) is working to integrate the new technology, including longer blades and updated gear boxes, into the existing wind turbines to improve their performance. 

“Think of it like taking an older car and installing a new, fuel-efficient engine in it so you can get better gas mileage and drive it more cost-effectively,” says Conlan Kennedy, NextEra Energy communications specialist. “The capacity of the project won’t change, but the efficiency will improve – meaning the turbines will be able to generate more energy during more hours of the day, even in lower wind speeds.” 

Kennedy says the renovation is being driven by extensive advancements in wind turbine technology the industry has experienced over the past decade. The upgrades make each turbine more cost-effective and efficient. With longer blades, the turbines are able to capture more wind. 

“This work required that Basin Electric approve the upgrade, and sets a new, lower price for power from both projects,” says Becky Kern, Basin Electric director of long-term utility planning. “It was an opportunity to take an older project and increase its capacity factor and therefore reduce the purchase price.” 

Performance upgrades on Wilton 2 were completed in late 2019 and Wilton 1 was completed in late April.

“Now that construction on this upgrade is completed, our project partners – both customers and landowners – will enjoy an improved wind project that is more efficient and produces cost-effective energy over a longer period of time,” Kennedy says.