Basin Electric board approves spare turbine purchases

Basin Electric’s Pioneer Generation Station near Williston, North Dakota, and Lonesome Creek Station near Watford City, North Dakota, both natural gas-fueled dispatchable generation units, have been running at record levels to keep electricity reliable in the growing Bakken region of western North Dakota.

Joe Fiedler, Basin Electric manager of Distributed Generation, said because the units are so critical to reliability, his team decided it would be prudent to have spare turbines and associated equipment on site in case of failure for the ability to get the units back online again quickly.

“We’re having to purchase a lot of these parts and components weeks, months, even years in advance,” Fiedler said. “The vendors used to have a lot of components on hand and used to be able to ship things overnight and there is just not that availability anymore with supply chain issues and materials issues. We’re really having to make a lot of adjustments to keep things running and reliable in that region.”

The Basin Electric board authorized the purchases at their October board meeting.

“GE (General Electric) will build these jet engines, which will be direct replacements for the units we are running at those sites. These spares will give us some flexibility and improve our reliability if we have a major failure on an engine,” Fiedler said. “These engines can be changed out faster than sending it in for repair which can sometimes take months.”

Fiedler said the units are especially valuable because they are fast-start units used for variable load. “They’re dispatched, they’re started quickly, and then when they’re on, they follow the load that’s needed for the generation,” Fiedler said. “They’re flexible — not only are they quick to dispatch but they’re also used for regulation during the day to take care of the grid needs more readily.”

The spare engines will arrive in September 2024 and January 2025.

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