New North Dakota wind project will soon provide affordable, renewable power to Basin Electric customers

A new wind project in North Dakota will provide another 200 megawatts (MW) of affordable, renewable power to Basin Electric customers.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative and a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, have executed a 30-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for the entire output of the Northern Divide Wind Energy Project in Burke County, North Dakota. Northern Divide will add 200 MW of wind energy to Basin Electric’s portfolio, which, includes approximately 1,360 MW of wind, more than 20% of its current total generation capability. Additionally, 200 MW of wind was added when a South Dakota wind project came online in April 2020.

“Renewable technology has advanced dramatically in recent years, which means even more affordable power for Basin Electric’s customers,” said Paul Sukut, CEO and general manager of Basin Electric. “Basin Electric is excited to purchase the output from the Northern Divide Wind Energy Project to help serve our growing energy needs.”

The Northern Divide Wind Energy Project was approved by the North Dakota Public Service Commission in June and construction began in July. According to NextEra Energy Resources, the project will eliminate nearly 600,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and produce enough electricity to power nearly 65,000 typical North Dakota households per year.

Unlike most electric utilities across the country, Basin Electric was experiencing significant growth across its service territory prior to COVID-19, and Basin Electric is meeting that growth largely with renewable resources. In the last decade alone, Basin Electric has seen a 50% load growth increase, 80% of which was met with renewables, natural gas, and market purchases. After the economy recovers from the COVID-19 impacts, Basin Electric staff believes that its membership will continue to have significant growth. 

“Our commitment to wind dates back nearly 20 years with the construction and commissioning of our first wind project. Since then, we have constructed a number of wind projects of our own, including the largest wind project in the nation that is solely owned and operated by a cooperative, and have secured power purchase agreements for a large amount of power. In fact, we have more than doubled our wind capability in just the past five years and expect it to continue growing in the coming years,” Sukut said.

“We are very pleased to work with Basin Electric to produce cost-effective, home-grown, renewable energy for its customers,” said John Di Donato, vice president of development and origination for NextEra Energy Resources. “The Northern Divide wind project will also create significant economic benefits to Burke County and the entire region, including good jobs, landowner payments, and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the community.”

Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative is proud to have the Northern Divide wind project become a part of the cooperative,” said Jerry King, Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative general manager. “It will bring additional renewable energy to Basin Electric’s already diverse energy portfolio, as well as employ many local folks in our service territory, which will help the communities they choose to live in – from housing, to schooling, to overall economic development.”

Basin Electric Class A member Upper Missouri Power Cooperative, headquartered in Sidney, Montana, provides wholesale power to Burke-Divide Electric and 10 other distribution cooperatives in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. “It is encouraging to witness the development of cost-competitive energy like the Northern Divide Wind Energy Project, which will be part of the energy mix we purchase from Basin Electric for our member systems, said Claire Vigesaa, Upper Missouri Power’s general manager. “The energy needs in our region are growing and this project will help us serve both our members, and our communities as a whole.”

The Northern Divide project will bring significant economic benefits to Burke County. According to NextEra Energy Resources, the project is expected to contribute $30 million in property taxes to the local community over its first 30 years of operations, as well as $30 million in landowner payments. The company estimates the project will also create approximately 200-300 construction jobs and five to seven full-time jobs once it is completed.

Northern Divide is anticipated to begin operation by the end of 2020.