Otter tail will use wind, natural gas to replace an aging coal plant

Nov 3, 2017

Public Service Commissioners Brian Kroshus (l); Chairman Randy Christmann; and Julie Fedorchak.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has given its okay to Otter Tail Power for a North Dakota wind farm and a South Dakota Natural Gas power plant.

The two will replace an aging coal plant in Fergus Falls.

The natural gas plant will be built near Astoria, South Dakota – and the Merricourt Wind Farm will be built near Ashley.

"This is replacing the Hoot Lake facility in Fergus Falls (MN)," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "That plant, I believe, will be decommissioned in 2021."

Kroshus said the Hoot Lake plant uses sub-bituminous coal that has to be shipped in by rail. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the Hoot Lake plant was only operated sporadically – which is not good for coal-fired plants.

"The company testified this will allow Otter Tail to capture the very attractive wind prices in this region," Fedorchak said. "And teh wind resource will be backed up with something dispatchable -- meaning they can bring it on line within 10 minutes."

Otter Tail also said there is a growing demand for power in its region – and the two new facilities will be able to handle that increased load.

The Merricourt wind farm will be built by EDF Renewable Development, which will sell the power to Otter Tail. The PSC still has to act on siting for the wind farm.