Adding Solar Energy to the Generation Mix

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Over the past few decades, Basin Electric Power Cooperative and East River Electric Power Cooperative have been adding renewables to our generation mix using a realistic and fiscally responsible approach. And that trend is set to continue, with solar energy being added to our generation mix through two new solar projects that have been announced by Basin Electric.

On Feb. 18, 2020, Geronimo Energy, a National Grid company, and Basin Electric announced the execution of a Power Purchase Agreement for the Wild Springs Solar Project, a 128 megawatt (MW) solar energy project that will be constructed near New Underwood, S.D., and is projected to be operational by 2022. Once operational, Wild Springs will be the largest solar project in South Dakota.

“For the first time in its history, Basin Electric will buy solar generation on a large scale to serve our members. The board’s decision to add solar generation to our resource portfolio is to continue with our all-of-the-above strategy, as well as solar generation becoming a more economic energy source. We are excited about adding solar to our already diverse generation mix,” said Paul Sukut, CEO and General Manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

On June 15, 2020, Basin Electric announced its second solar energy project—the Cabin Creek Solar Project with Clēnera Renewable Energy. When complete, Cabin Creek will consist of two, 75 MW projects in southeastern Montana. The project will be located within the service area of Southeast Electric Cooperative. As with the Wild Springs project, Cabin Creek is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the local area. According to Clēnera, the project will contribute $8 million in property taxes and $5 million for the state of Montana over 35 years. The company states it will create approximately 300 construction jobs and two to three full-time jobs.

“Our cooperative network is always looking to ensure we have a mix of power resources to meet the needs of our membership and renewable energy is an important part of that strategy,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko. “These solar projects are important strategic steps as we look to the future in continuing our strong history of providing safe, affordable and reliable power.”

Currently, 37 percent of East River Electric’s power supply mix comes from wind and hydropower generation. That percent is set to increase as new renewable sources, including the Wild Springs and Cabin Creek projects, are added to the mix. This is a proven, realistic and fiscally-responsible approach of adding renewable energy to our generation mix.

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