North Dakota is a coal state. Coal mining is an important part of the state’s economy. Roughly 87% of the power for the state’s energy grid comes from coal, which is why North Dakota has long enjoyed some of the cheapest power rates in the nation.
But nationally an energy boom, made possible by new production techniques like hydraulic fracturing, has opened up entire oceans of new natural gas reserves. That means prices for natural gas have plummeted, and the impact on the energy markets has been profound. Natural gas is replacing coal power because it’s cheaper and cleaner burning, and it now seems that trend is now coming to North Dakota:
BISMARCK — Basin Electric Power Cooperative wants to build a new electric power plant near Watford City in western North Dakota.
The project includes two turbines that would be powered by natural gas. They would be capable of generating up to 90 megawatts of electricity.
North Dakota’s Public Service Commission said Wednesday it’s received a notice from Basin that it wants to build the project. The commission must approve the plans before construction starts.
That’s a relative small plant. By comparison, North Dakota’s largest power plant is the coal-fired Coal Creek Station near Washburn (owned by Great River Energy) which puts out a combined 1,100 megawatts between its two units.
Still, it’s a sign of things to come, especially with the Bakken oil fields flaring off so much natural gas that is just going to waste.
Natural gas is every bit as reliable as coal (unlike wind or solar), and it’s cheaper and cleaner-burning to boot.