Renewable Energy: Basin Electric and East River Electric Take a Fiscally Responsible Approach

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A main selling point touted by Guzman Energy to prospective utilities is their ability to supply consumers with renewable energy. They have obtained a letter of intent from Dakota Energy Cooperative to purchase wholesale power from Guzman in the event Dakota Energy is successful in obtaining a contract buyout from its longtime power supplier East River Electric Power Cooperative through a lawsuit filed November 6, 2020.

The cooperative approach being taken by Basin Electric Power Cooperative and East River Electric Power Cooperative is realistic and fiscally responsible to balance the need for more renewables while controlling wholesale power costs. Basin Electric and East River Electric work tirelessly to ensure we have a proper mix of power resources to serve member-owners with reliable and affordable electricity at all times of the day or night and whatever the weather. This requires an ‘all of the above’ generation strategy, part of which includes using renewable energy.

Currently, 37 percent of our cooperative family’s generation mix comes from renewable sources including hydropower and wind, and another 3 percent from carbon-free sources including recovered energy technology and nuclear energy. Additionally, we have plans for steady and fiscally-responsible growth of renewables such as buying power from what will be South Dakota’s largest solar farm – the 128 megawatt Wild Springs Solar farm – beginning in 2022. This year, about 20 percent of our energy mix comes from wind resources. If you look back about 10 years ago, just 8 percent of our power supply came from wind. Even more, the percentage of coal in our power supply has dropped 15 percent in the past decade, now making up only about 43 percent. Those are significant steps that need to be celebrated and they have been taken in a manner that minimizes costs to cooperative member-owners.

We all remember the polar vortex that blanketed our region with record-setting cold temperatures in January 2019. What you may not have known though was that wind towers in the Dakotas had to be shut down for a time through that cold spell. When temperatures drop to 22 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, weather stations installed on each turbine have to be shut down because the extreme cold puts the wind tower at risk of failure. When wind generation shut down at that time, Basin Electric Power Cooperative ramped up their reliable natural gas and coal generation and also made market purchases to meet our co-op network’s demand for electricity.

As cooperative power suppliers, Basin Electric and East River Electric have a watchful eye on the electric system around the clock making sure your lights come on when you flip the switch, from the coldest days of winter to the hottest days of the summer. Would a for-profit energy broker have the same diligence in supplying our region with safe, affordable and reliable energy? It would be a shame to learn the answer to that question on our next -30 degrees day.

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