Yesterday North Dakota’s Public Service Commission voted on the $180 million Sunflower Wind project, which consists of 59 new turbines to be built in Morton and Stark counties, south of Hebron. They would provide 80 megawatts of power generation.
But in voting to approve the project, Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann expressed some concern about the amount of wind energy being built, but he says the state essentially has no choice in the matter thanks to the EPA.
“The North Dakota Legislature’s objective of 10 percent has long since been surpassed,” Christmann said during the hearing. “It disturbs me that we are becoming this reliant on wind. However, thanks to the Administration and specifically the EPA, we’re down to almost zero alternatives.”
Christmann has voiced these concerns before. Back in June, shortly after the Obama administration announced new emissions regulations for existing power plants, Christmann said that it would create price turmoil in the energy markets while making the energy grid less reliable.
“As we shut down a select few coal plants or idle them back in order to meet the Democrats’ mandate, two things will have to happen,” he told me. “The coal plants will have to charge more for the power they do produce since their sales will be less but their fixed costs remain unchanged, and we will have to decorate our landscape with more wind turbines to replace that lost generation. Because the wind is not dependable, we will also need to add more natural gas peaking generation to run when the wind is not blowing.”
Commissioner Brian Kalk, also a member of the PSC and who also voted in favor of the Sunflower project, agreed with Christmann in June on the larger issue of the EPA’s regulations and their impact on energy price and reliability.
“My concern, as always, is how these and other regulations impact system reliability and what impact will they have on both energy costs to consumers and businesses and on economic growth in North Dakota,” Kalk told me. “Any time you impose cumbersome regulations on an industry, it slows growth. With our economy growing, we need more, not less, energy.”
Put simply, the federal government cracking down on power plant emissions undermines the foundation of currently cheap and reliable energy resources (see: coal), leaving as alternatives things like wind, which are neither cheap nor reliable and thus aren’t very good alternatives.
There are major risks, both to power reliability and to price certainty, involved with this move. That’s what Kalk and Christmann are alarmed about, but placating global warming alarmism is apparently more important.