According to the Department of Energy’s “2008 Wind Technologies Market Report,” Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks, N.D., leads the nation with the highest percentage of retail sales – 33 percent by the end of the year -- powered by wind. Thanks mostly to a long-term contract with NextEra, the cooperative will have 358 megawatts (MW) of wind energy by the end of 2009. Even without the additional capacity scheduled to come online later this year, at the current level of 25 percent, the cooperative ranks higher in wind penetration than any other electric utility.
Minnkota has a 139.5 MW capacity allocation from the 199.5 MW Langdon Wind Energy Center. As of March 2009, the cooperative also has a 148.5 MW capacity allocation from the 196.5 MW Ashtabula Wind Energy Center. Both projects are joint efforts between Minnkota Power Cooperative, NextEra Energy Resources (formerly FPL Energy) and Otter Tail Power Company. The cooperative will add another 69 MW from the Ashtabula wind farm by the end of this year.
Several factors specific to Minnkota’s location and operation have allowed the cooperative to move aggressively to develop wind resources: good wind in its service area, an adequate existing transmission infrastructure, a willing partner in NextEra, a large baseload coal generation resource and, importantly, a well-established demand response program.
Also, according to David Loer, Minnkota president and CEO, the cooperative’s members have shown an interest in wind development.
Wind resources in North Dakota rank first in the nation and the wind at the two sites averages 17 to 18 mph; 30 mph are “not infrequent.” As a result, these North Dakota-based wind farms have demonstrated a capacity factor of between 40 and 42 percent (by comparison, a coal-fired plant has an 85 to 90 percent capacity factor).
“We can’t make this work without baseload generation,” Loer said.
When the turbines generate more than the cooperative needs, the excess generation is sold into MISO.
Located in Barnes County in southeastern North Dakota, the Ashtabula Wind Energy Center will generate more than 700 million kWh (kilowatt hours) annually, equivalent to the average electricity used in more than 36,700 homes per year in the Minnkota service area. Initial operation of the 131 wind turbines at the wind farm began in November 2008.