Company selected for power grid
WILLISTON — A northwest North Dakota power company has just taken a big leap that positions it to to make a bigger mark on the nation’s energy map.
Mountrail Williams Electric Cooperative, on the eve of celebrating its 25th anniversary, was recently welcomed as the newest member of the Southwest Power Pool, a nonprofit Regional Transmission Organization that manages the electric grid and the wholesale energy market in the Central United States.
The SPP blueprint now stretches across 14 states from North Dakota to Texas in the south. SPP expanded from eight states to 14 in June, with North Dakota among the new territories. The other new states included South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Iowa.
Gaining membership in the organization will allow Mountrail Williams, with headquarters in Williston, to finally export power to other regions, something it has been unable to do before.
“This blueprint will position us in the future for wind generation and even natural gas generation and everything else,” said Haugen. “It puts us into the marketplace.”
That expansion could someday mean that natural gas, which is presently being flared in the oil patch of western North Dakota, could instead become cheap power for areas that need it throughout the Central U.S.
“Let’s get it down to Denver and other areas,” Haugen said. “We couldn’t do that before, because we were not set up to drive out.”
While that particular development may be some distance away in the future, wind farms are already in the works, and that will be something the region’s power companies, including Mountrail Williams, hope to capitalize on in the wider energy markets. The wider benefit of that, Haugen suggested, is a continued downward pressure on regional power prices.
SPP will help Mountrail Williams optimize its transmission system for both importing and exporting power.