N.D. wind power, conservation are pluggedBISMARCK — North Dakota could do a lot more to develop its wind energy, an Xcel Energy official told a climate stewardship audience Thursday at the University of Mary.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — North Dakota could do a lot more to develop its wind energy, an Xcel Energy official told a climate stewardship audience Thursday at the University of Mary.
Betsy Engelking, manager of resource planning and bidding for the Minneapolis-based utility that serves three of North Dakota’s four largest cities, said the state has done little to market itself as a good wind-generation area. All of North Dakota is in at least the “good” category of wind energy potential, with some areas also in the “excellent” category and the Edgeley-Ellendale-Kulm area classified as outstanding.
She also said the state hasn’t done much with its Transmission Authority, created three years ago to assist companies in building electric transmission lines to get wind power from North Dakota to urban markets.
About 140 people registered for the two-day conference, which continues today. The Prairie Climate Stewardship Conference was organized by Prairie Stewardship Network and the Great Plains Institute.
But Engelking admitted her company has taken some heat in North Dakota for not doing much itself, a reference to her testimony last month to the Public Service Commission on why the company needs a 14-percent electric rate increase in North Dakota.
“I spent several grueling hours on the witness stand being questioned by the commissioners about why we haven’t invested more in more wind (in North Dakota),” she said.
The company has committed to building 200 megawatts of wind generation in North Dakota by 2011 and Engelking also hinted that the company could soon announce more wind power projects in the state.
Xcel must meet a Minnesota state mandate of producing 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 “and we’re looking at North Dakota to supply a lot of that wind,” Engelking said.
Meanwhile other companies, chiefly FPL Energy, Minnkota Power Cooperative and Minnesota Power, have in recent weeks announced plans for several more wind farms and wind farm expansions in North Dakota with total generation, combined, of more than 2,000 megawatts.
Also on the same panel at the meeting Thursday, Cass County Electric Cooperative CEO, Scott Handy said utilities know that energy efficiency and conservation can act as a low-cost form of new electric generation, slowing down the need to build new generating plants.
“We don’t have to come up with any new technology (to conserve),” he said, and “It doesn’t mean watching television by candlelight.”
But, Handy said, showing a slide of a box of Band-Aids, it takes more than households swapping out a few incandescent light bulbs for fluorescents.
Cass County has seven staff energy auditors who will, at no cost, help its customers pinpoint where and how they can save significant energy.
“We appreciate it when members use our product, but no one benefits when it’s wasted,” he said.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.