lignite | Prairie Public Broadcasting


In North Dakota, Will Wind Keep The Lights On?

May 16, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Steven Somsen’s farm has looked the same his entire life -- it’s flat, with wheat and soybeans that will soon grow as far as the eye can see.

But the 61-year-old’s view changed last year.

“Those are the closest ones to us, but they’re not our towers,” he said, pointing to several nearby wind turbines. “That’s the neighbors’. Ours are way, way off in there.”

One hundred wind turbines dot the farmland around his rural community of Courtenay in eastern North Dakota. Somsen has three on his land.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The coal industry is breathing a sigh of relief with Donald Trump about to enter the White House.

He campaigned on an energy platform that would strip away Obama administration regulations on the fossil fuel industry. Chief among them: the Clean Power Plan.

While average wages in North Dakota have dropped slightly – by about two percent, primarily due to the slowdown in the oil industry – wages in coal country continued to rise.

"They generally range between $70,000 and $80,000 at the mines and the power plants," said Steve Van Dyke of the Lignite Energy Council. "And they continue to be some of the best-paying jobs in North Dakota."

The Lignite Energy Council is again sponsoring its Lignite Education Seminar.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, it gives teachers a chance to learn about the state’s coal and power generation industries.

Owen Owens is a teacher in Surrey.

“I teach earth science and geology.”

Owens was introduced to his fellow teachers as someone who is very knowledgeable about coal – something he says is a little bit of an over-statement.