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New power plant proposed in county

Posted 4/11/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

In order to meet the ever increasing power demand in western North Dakota because of increased energy development and the huge influx of population, Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck has announced plans to build a new natural gas-fired electric power plant in McKenzie County.
The new Lonesome Creek Station 45-megawatt capacity power plant, which is estimated to cost $64.5 million, will be located about 13 miles west of Watford City.
According to project manager Myron Steckler, construction of the new plant which will be fueled by natural gas from the Northern Border Pipeline, is planned to begin this spring following receipt of all regulatory approvals.
“We plan to have the plant ready for operation in the summer of 2013,” states Steckler.
The 45-megawatt plant will have the capacity to provide electricity to 36,000 homes in western North Dakota which is being hit the hardest by the increase in load demand.
“The best option is to build a generating unit that can be started quickly to meet the rapidly increasing demand for electricity,” states Steckler. “The generating unit will be equipped with a clutch to allow operation as a synchronous condensor. This allows the turbine to uncouple from the generator, allowing the generator to operate independent of the turbine.”
And that, according to Steckler, will stabilize the transmission system in the area by providing for fast-acting reactive power.
Basin Electric produces the electricity that is distributed by McKenzie Electric, which is headquartered in Watford City.
And for John Skurupey, CEO of McKenzie Electric, the construction of the new peaking station can’t come soon enough.
“We were really in a bind last winter,” states Skurupey. “We were riding our limit of 60 megawatts of power between us and Montana-Dakota Utilities most of the winter and actually hit a peak of 63 megawatts of electricity.”
According to Skurupey, when the two power companies exceeded their power limits this past winter, there was a good chance that the entire power grid would have gone down in and around Watford City.
“The entire area around Watford City is a low voltage area,” states Skurupey. “We could have gone ‘black’ last winter. Which is why this new plant will be a big help to us.”
While Skurupey says that the Lonesome Creek Station will definitely help, the entire northwest region of the state needs improvements in its power supply.
“The new unit will help us meet our peak power demands,” states Skurupey. “But because of the continued growth in electrical demand in this area, we could see load limits come this winter.”
“While the plant will be owned and operated by Basin Electric, the electricity generated  from the new plant will tie into McKenzie Electric’s distribution system,” stated Steckler.
Basin Electric anticipates that the plant will employ one person.
The plant, according to Steckler, will have remote-start capability to meet load demand and will be operated as needed.
The Lonesome Creek Station follows on the heels of the announcement last October of Basin Electric’s intention to build the Pioneer Generating Station 21 miles northwest of Williston.