When the very controversial South Dakota coal plant Big Stone II – with all its permits in place and finally due to be built this year – was finally canceled at the end of last year; the cancellation created an opportunity for wind power.
It was to have supplied customers in Minnesota. New transmission lines were to have hauled its dirty power from the coal plant to supply the Twin Cities.
A month later, Minnesota, which has a Renewable Energy Standard and clean energy legislation in place, slapped the first ever border carbon tax on coal power from across its North Dakota border.
Now, according to Businessweek, those new and upgraded high-voltage transmission lines, originally slated to carry the dirty power from Big Stone II, will instead be used to carry South Dakota’s clean wind power.
“Building wind farms without transmission lines is like building cars with no roads to drive on”, said Steve Wegman, executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association
The difficulties in meeting new federal restrictions on coal plants under the new very restrictive EPA rules made the coal plants a poor investment. The threat of further carbon restrictions at the federal level similar to Minnesota’s carbon tax loomed over bankers. Financing was difficult. Once the cost of pollution was factored in, the economics of coal became much less attractive.
The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator immediately stepped in to salvage the transmission line portion of the project; saying wind farms in the region are ready with 1,900 megawatts of wind power available at new farms to put the high voltage transmission lines to good use.
The lines can carry as much as 2,400 megawatts of power, and all three states are blessed with the potential for an abundant supply of wind power.
Image: Kathryn Campbell Dodd
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