South Dakota and Minnesota Wind Could Replace Big Stone II Capacity

November 12, 2009 - 11:10am -- Anonymous

“South Dakota and Minnesota have robust wind resources to harness, particularly in the area where the power plant was proposed.
—Lisa Daniels, Windustry

Big Stone II was originally slated to be a cost-effective, clean-coal project to be up and running as early as 2011 near Milbank, South Dakota, supplying new energy for the Midwest and even to Eastern states. Now that the project has been cancelled, many are wondering what went wrong and what will replace the power capacity that it would have supplied to the CapX2020 transmission lines planned for Minnesota.

The project faced a major hurdle in January 2009 when the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that the project permit would be in violation of the Clean Air Act. Although Big Stone II was able to gain approval for all of the necessary regulatory permits, serious questions about the project's financial model were given more scrutiny. A final blow to the project came in September when Otter Tail Power Company announced its withdrawal from the project, both as a participating utility and as the project's lead developer. The utility cited uncertainties in the credit markets along with concern that climate change legislation might impact the plant in the future.

Now, the remaining utilities have announced that they will not build the Big Stone II 500-to-600-megawatt coal-fired power plant. The remaining Big Stone II Project participants were Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District, Missouri River Energy Services and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.

So what happens next? Windustry Executive Director Lisa Daniels believes that wind energy will have more opportunity to grow by serving the market that Big Stone II would have supplied, reports the West Central Tribune in their story "Big Stone power plant plans go down, but will the lines still go up?"

Some of the Big Stone capacity would have connected to the CapX2020 transmission initiative, a joint project of 11 utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region to expand the electric transmission grid to ensure continued reliable and affordable service. When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission granted a Certificate of Need to construct the new power lines, a portion of one was reserved for renewable energy.

Daniels says that many wondered how the "synergy'' of a partnership between a base-load coal plant and wind farms would work out. Now the question shifts to how renewable energy could play a much larger role. "South Dakota and Minnesota have robust wind resources to harness, particularly in the area where the power plant was proposed," says Daniels.