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PSC Commissioner: Otter Tail's plan to leave the Coyote Station 'disappointing'

Coyote Station
Lignite Energy Council
/

"Disappointing and needlessly reckless.”

That’s how North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann reacted to news that Otter Tail Power Company wants to relinquish its stake in the Coyote Station power plant near Beulah by 2028.

Otter Tail has a 35 percent stake in that 420 megawatt plant. In its “integrated resource plan,” filed with regulators in the Dakotas and Minnesota, Otter Tall proposes to make its natural gas-fired Astoria Station in South Dakota a “dual fuel” plant, and to build a new 150 megawatt solar power facility in a location to be named later.

Christmann said Otter Tail has been a wonderful manager of the Coyote plant, and because of that, Otter Tail customers have had reasonable electric rates.

"That being said, the thought of walking away from it now, to rely on a new solar farm and a peaking plant filled with natural gas — those are volitally-priced commodities," Christmann said. "And we know that on a cold winternight, solar is predictable — it will produce nothing."

Christmann saids he’s also concerned that increased reliance on natural gas to produce electricity will mean higher prices for North Dakotans who use the gas to heat their homes. He said he’s already raised these concerns with Otter Tail officials.

The PSC has been given more oversight authority concerned integrated resource plans, through the action of the 2021 North Dakota Legislature. Christmann said the PSC can open a case, and do more investigation.

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