Wind Energy: Overcoming Challenges Well Worth the Outcome

April 26, 2010

Audio with Ron Rebenitsch, Basin Electric Power Cooperative Manager of Alternative Technologies (MP3 2.0 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:09.

Advances in technology and changes in the economics of wind power have made the development of wind energy more viable in the last decade. But a report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows the potential for most states is well beyond current installed capacity. The state of North Dakota is one example where the 20-percent Wind Energy by 2030 report pegs the state's potential at 2.3 gigawatts and just over 12-hundred megawatts is installed.

Ron Rebenitsch is Manager of Alternative Technologies for Basin Electric Power Cooperative. He says North Dakota certainly has the wind but does not have the necessary transmission system. What he calls the highway to the market.

"To develop the amount of wind generation that's possible, we need to export it. Just as we don't need all the wheat we produce or consume all the beef we raise, we need to export that product. And that takes transmission. And transmission is limited. There are many billions and billions of dollars in transmission that would need to be developed in order to export that power supply."

There is another challenge, one Rebenitsch says was the most difficult for Basin Electric as they got involved with wind energy development. He says that's getting the environmental permitting completed.

These larger projects come under the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. And there's tremendous risk and uncertainty in that process because you don't know what you're getting into until you actually spend significant amounts on the studies. And federal agencies are not really sure how to analyze the impacts."

Certainly there are other hurdles to the goal of achieving the 20-percent wind goal by 2030, but Rebenitsch says it's definitely worth the effort.

"We've got a vast resource here. It's renewable, it'll be there for a hundred years and it's a resource we need to develop. Wind is just one more tool in the toolbox to meet the energy demands of our society. Our society is very dependent on a reliable and reasonably cost supply of energy. And wind has potential to be part of that picture."

A very important part Rebenitsch says.