Thunder Spirit Wind pursues 150-MW North Dakota project

The North Dakota Public Service Commission was due to hold a Sept. 19 hearing on the 150-MW Thunder Spirit Wind LLC project in Adams County, N.D.

In written pre-hearing testimony, Dan Albano, Vice President of Development and Environmental Affairs with Global Winds Harvest and an authorized representative of Thunder Spirit Wind LLC, outlined the project, which underwent an application revision filed on Sept. 11. The original application was filed on June 4.

The project is located in Adams County, about two miles northeast of Hettinger. It will have a maximum nameplate capacity of approximately 150 MW consisting of up to 75 wind turbines. Additional facilities will include access roads, electrical collection systems and cabling, a substation, a construction laydown area, and an approximately 0.85 mile overhead radial transmission line. Assuming certain net capacity factors, the projected average annual output is estimated at 676,710 megawatt hours per year.

The project will interconnect to the Montana-Dakota Utilities Hettinger 230-kV Substation and will transmit power into the Midcontinent ISO grid. The project’s collection substation will include a power transformer to step up the voltage from 34.5 kV to 230 kV, enabling the interconnection to the MDU Substation. The project substation will be located less than a mile away from the MDU Substation.

The project area encompasses approximately 26,867 acres (42 square miles) in Adams County. The turbines will be placed throughout the project area. However, it is estimated that the turbines and associated infrastructure will permanently occupy only 176 acres, or less than 0.7% of the total land area.

Asked why the project is needed, Albano responded: “North Dakota’s per capita energy consumption is among the highest in the nation with nearly 30% of North Dakota households using electricity as their primary energy source for home heating. Additionally, in recent years, the Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP) has consistently reinforced the regional need for increased generating capacity in the coming decade. Cost fluctuations and reliability problems serve to reinforce the need for sufficient capacity, low-cost energy, and diverse generation sources.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010, 82% of North Dakota’s net electricity generation came from coal (the state is home to several minemouth lignite plants), 12% came from wind energy, and 6% from conventional hydroelectric power sources. Energy sources such as coal are finite and public policy has dictated that additional sources of energy such as wind energy should be pursued, Albano wrote.

“Independent power producers such as Thunder Spirit are widely recognized as essential to meeting regional energy needs, stabilizing energy costs, and enhancing energy reliability,” Albano wrote. “The Thunder Spirit Wind Project offers North Dakota and the MAPP region the opportunity to add to capacity, to stabilize wholesale power prices, and to provide electricity from a clean, cost-effective renewable energy generation facility, consistent with the State’s statutory policy objectives. Once completed, the Thunder Spirit Wind Energy Project will be a significant source of energy for meeting the region’s energy needs for the next 20-25 years.”

Thunder Spirit is currently evaluating three turbine models that will ultimately ensure optimization of wind and land resources while also weighing cost efficiency. At a maximum build-out, the project will consist of 75 x 2-MW turbines, 65 x 2.3-MW turbines, or 50 x 3-MW turbines, depending on the model that is ultimately selected in order to fill the 150 MW generation capacity goal. The turbines being evaluated will have a hub height range of 80-92 meters (262-302 feet) and a rotor diameter range of 100-116 meters (328-380 feet).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.