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Just Wind is finalizing agreement with WAPA

September 09, 2009

EMMONS COUNTY -- Karen Radzykewycz of Billings, Mont., Public Utilities Specialist for Western, said the agreement is a five-year contract under which Western would purchase 100 megawatts per year from JustWIND.

She said the major part of the agreement, the price of the electricity generated by JustWIND, has been completed and that attorneys for the two entities are working out various other details before the agreement can be signed.

Jeff Metzger, JustWIND’s President, said the 153-turbine (368 megawatts), 42,300-acre project in Logan County will include 42 turbines needed for the Western contract.

Metzger said turbine footings should be poured this fall with one or more turbines to be erected by the end of the year, weather permitting. He noted the concrete work would need to be completed before the ground freezes.

At earlier meetings, Metzger had predicted that wind turbines would be erected in Logan County in the spring of 2009. According to Metzger, the project was delayed because of the process involved to finalize the agreement with Western, meet other federal and state requirements and obtain funding in the wake of last year’s crisis in the financial markets.

In 2006 and 2007 JustWIND submitted requests under the Large Generator Interconnection Procedures to interconnect with the Integrated System.  The IS is co-owned by Western, Basin Electric of Bismarck and Heartland Consumers Power District of Madison, S.D., and it is administered by Western.

Dirk Shulund of Billings, Project Manager, Transmission Tariff Coordinator for Western, said the 345 kV (kilovolt) transmission line that crosses Logan County is being studied to determine how JustWIND’s requests will interconnect to the IS.

Shulund said the process for connecting new generation to the transmission system involves three studies—feasibility, system impact and facilities. The feasibility and system impact studies have been completed, and work is moving forward on the facilities study.

After the final study is completed, a Large Generator Interconnection Agreement would have to be signed by both parties.

Construction on the IS portion of the facilities needed to interconnect the generation from JustWIND will not start until the agreement has been signed.

Radzykewycz said the reason Western is buying electricity is because of the long-term drought that has drawn down the Missouri River reservoirs. Western markets the hydro-electric power from the dams, and she noted that, while Lake Oahe is back to normal, the other reservoirs have not, thus reducing the hydro output.
She said Western has been purchasing electricity on the spot market and concluded that it would be more economical to sign a five-year contract with a supplier.

According to Radzykewycz, when the five-year contract expires, the process will start over, so there is no guarantee that JustWIND would get the next round or that there would be another contract since drought/reservoir storage will be the deciding factor.

Among Western’s customers is Basin Electric, which delivers hydro (and power from coal-fired plants) to KEM Electric Cooperative in Linton. The contracts with rural electric cooperatives and municipal electric systems end in 2020. In the meantime, Western has to provide the contracted amounts to its customers whether from the lower cost hydro power or the higher cost spot market purchases.

Metzger said a crew is identifying routes for construction cranes in Logan County and roads will be worked out this fall with township and county officials. He said road construction should be underway this fall.

He said a site has been picked for the project’s substation, and the transformers arrived in Napoleon recently. In answer to a question, he said the substation equipment is currently owned by the supplier and JustWIND.
Metzger said the estimated cost of the overall project has dropped from $940 million to $850 million because of economic forces that have caused equipment and materials pricing to drop.

According to Metzger, the first phase will be built in the southern portion of the project area.

Metzger said the 64,000-acre, 400-turbine project proposed for the Strasburg area will not be built until the Logan County project has turbines in place and generating electricity.

“We come to work every day on your behalf,” Metzger told the crowd. “All we ask is that you continue to support us. We are closer (to generating electricity) every day. It’s a process. We’re working through the process.”

Emmons County Record