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Wind power developer says a lack of transmission is hampering wind power expansion

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

An official with a wind energy developer says a lack of transmission is holding back wind development in North Dakota.

John DiDonato is a vice-president for renewable development and origination with NextEra Energy. He told the Legislature’s Energy Development and Transmission Committee transmission is handled in North Dakota by two independent system operators that serve multiple states – the Midwest Independent System Operator and the Southwest Power Pool.

"MISO" serves 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba. "SPP" serves 14 states.

North Dakota exports much of its electric generation.

DiDonato told the Committee because the operators pool from a number of different companies, the problem comes in who pays what part of the cost of transmission.

"Consensus around costs are very hard to come by," DiDonato said. "No one wants to pay for something they don't fully understand, or believe belongs on the back of their customers or their citizens. The question of 'who pays' always comes up."

The committee chairman -- Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) questioned DiDonato.

'So you're saying, transmission is limited, and therefore, we now cannot add any new generation?" Wardner asked.

"What's there already is unaffected," DiDonato replied. "But going forward, if we want to add anything new, on top of what's already on the system, it's potentially zero."

DiDonato said one way to try and solve that issue is for the independent system operators to do long range planning, so that cost issues can be worked out.

"New transmission is going to be critical for North Dakota," DiDonato said. "And however we're able to, in this state, incentivize, or at least encourage, these transmission entities to do long-range planning, we should do."

NextEra Energy saids it has invested $2.7 billion in renewable, oil, and gas production in North Dakota.

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