North Dakota proposes wind energy moratorium
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Worried North Dakota’s burgeoning wind energy industry may be threatening the state’s coal-fired power plants, a Republican lawmaker has proposed legislation that would halt wind-generation projects for two years.
Mandan Sen. Dwight Cook said the state’s wind power industry enjoys more favorable tax incentives and less onerous regulations than coal factories, putting them at an unfair advantage. He also said the intent of his proposal is to ensure a reliable source of electricity
“Coal plants are shutting down and my assumption is wind generation has something to do with it,” Cook told The Associated Press.
North Dakota has seven coal-fueled electric power factories. One, owned by Minnesota’s Great River Energy, is slated to shutter this year. The company blamed the shutdown on low prices in the regional energy market.
Almost 70 percent of electricity produced from North Dakota’s power plants is exported to surrounding states to more than 2 million customers. Meanwhile, wind energy — which is cleaner but less reliable than coal-fueled electricity — has become more prevalent in North Dakota in the past decade.
The state ranked 11th in the nation last year for the number of turbines and installed wind capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The Washington-based group also has rated North Dakota as having the nation’s greatest wind energy potential.
North Dakota has about 2,850 megawatts of power generated from wind turbines, and another 6,000 megawatts planned or under construction. A megawatt is roughly enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.
Cook introduced his measure to impose a moratorium on wind energy development through the use of a so-called hog-house amendment that erases an existing bill and rewrites it. By doing so, the public can’t comment on the proposal because hearings already have been held on the original measure.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Cook serves, approved the measure 4-3 last week. The full Senate is expected to debate the bill on Wednesday.