Natural gas power plants coming to ND?

Oct 15, 2012

Montana Dakota Utilities has filed a site request for its proposed 88-megawatt natural gas fired power plant.

The site is next to the existing Heskett coal-fired plant, just north of Mandan.

"The idea is to start construction next year, so that the plant is in operation by the peak demand of summer, 2015," said MDU spokesman Mark Hanson.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative is also building a natural gas peaking plant in the Bakken formation. And with natural gas production expected to dramatically increase, North Dakota regulators say they're anticipating more proposals for those plants, perhaps working hand in hand with wind farms.

"A lot of wind turbines already have the interconnection with the power grid," said Public Service Commission chairman Brian Kalk. "When the wind's not blowing, that interconnection is not being used. You could combine the natural gas with the wind and share the same interconnection."

Kalk says several companies are looking at that.

Commissioner Kevin Cramer says he’d like to see Xcel Energy consider a natural gas “peaking” plant constructed in the Red River Valley.

"We don't have any generation in that area," said Cramer. "We know that, over the course of recent years, there have been some reliability challenges."

Cramer says with the building of the CapX 2020 project -- to shore up reliability for customers in the Fargo area -- a natural gas peaking project could be a good fit.

"It would provide jobs and create opportunities," said Cramer. "It would also shore up reliability."

Cramer says he thinks gas lines will have to be built to serve the new fertilizer facility in Spiritwood – and perhaps that line could be extended.

The Commission will hold a hearing on the site of MDU's gas plant in December, in Mandan.