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Utilities, cooperatives prompted to boost capacity

BISMARCK -- Ample supplies of natural gas, and sharp increases in demand for electricity in North Dakota's Oil Patch, have prompted utilities and cooperatives to boost capacity.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative will build six 5-megawatt gas peaking plants for a total of 270 megawatts at two locations in western North Dakota.

Montana-Dakota Utilities is adding an 88-megawatt natural gas unit to its Heskitt power station near Mandan, and has told regulators it likely will further expand the plant, with an application expected later this year or early next year.

A study last year predicted that the 43-county Williston Basin, encompassing much of western North Dakota, eastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota, will see demand for electricity grow by more than 2,500 megawatts by 2032, from 1,209 megawatts in 2012 to 3,721 megawatts.

Brian Kalk, president of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, said the Basin and MDU projects likely are interim steps, with bigger proposals to meet long-term power demands likely to come later.

Forum News Service