A Lot Has Changed in the Last Decade, Making Wind Energy Development More Viable

April 15, 2010

Audio with Ron Rebenitsch, Basin Electric Power Cooperative Manager of Alternative Technologies (MP3 2.0 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:08.

In one decade, the state of North Dakota has gone from zero megawatts to just over 1,200 megawatts of installed wind capacity.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative Manager of Alternative Technologies Ron Rebenitsch says two key things changed during that timeframe — technology and economics.

"Technology advanced and really reached economy of scale back around 2000. And since then, the technologies continue to improve, the turbines are more reliable and we've learned more how to build them. The cost of building is getting better as the contractors develop equipment and the techniques to build them. At the same time, the turbine manufacturers are developing their technology and making it more reliable."

As the technology advanced and the economics improved, Rebenitsch says Basin Electric started to see wind as a possible resource. What's more, he says it was well-accepted among Basin's membership. In fact, what Basin Electric is doing today, according to Rebenitsch, was driven by its members.

"Three years ago a resolution passed at an annual meeting of Basin Electric's members; set a goal of trying to achieve 10% based on nameplate capacity of our peak demand from green and renewable resources. And that was a goal we felt we could reach. And we've actually done very well. By the end of this year, early next year, we should be well in excess of 20%."

Rebenitsch says the vast majority of that is wind — and the response has been very positive.

"There's a significant revenue stream from each turbine and the landowners welcome them. They don't take up much land and the revenue from that turbine, the payment we make to the landowners, is far better than any crop that you can raise."

North Dakota has vast wind resources. In fact, the Department of Energy's 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report puts the state's potential at 2.3 gigawatts. Rebenitsch says there are some hurdles to that goal but says the end result is well worth the challenge.