Solar Growing In North Dakota

The current population of North Dakota is approximately 0.76 million people. In April 2019, state utilities used coal (54.1%), renewable energy (44.1%) and natural gas (1.8%) to generate electricity. Wind and hydropower are the primary sources of renewable energy in North Dakota.

North Dakota’s use of inexpensive renewable energy offsets the high cost of coal for electricity. In April 2019, the average cost of electricity in North Dakota was U.S. 10.6 ¢ per kWh, which is the 6th cheapest price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States in April 2019 was 13.3 ¢ per kWh.

North Dakota is one of 30 states with a renewable portfolio standard, which is a voluntary goal of producing 10% of all retail electricity from renewable energy sources. North Dakota is one of 36 states that does offer low interest loans for renewable energy projects.

The economics of low-cost renewable energy have spurred North Dakota utilities to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Utilities are seeing a growing interest in solar in a state dominated by wind and hydropower.

Verendrye Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Velva, North Dakota has installed over 275 solar-powered water well pumps for cooperative members. The solar-powered water well pumps are primarily used to provide water for livestock at locations far away from electrical infrastructure. Verendrye Electric has also seen a four-fold increase in home solar photovoltaic (PV) panel installations.

In February 2019, the North Dakota Public Service Commission approved the state’s first utility scale solar farm. Geronimo Energy will build and operate the 200 MW capacity solar park, which will be located in eastern region of the state. The solar park is forecast to begin operation by year end, 2020.

Geronimo Energy is a utility-scale renewable energy development company, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company was founded in 2004 and has developed over 1,600 MW of wind and solar projects in the United States.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act provided tax incentives for renewable energy. The tax credits for renewable energy coupled with escalating fossil fuel prices prompted utilities in the Great Plains states to develop wind farms. As utilities have gained confidence in wind energy, they are beginning to develop other types of renewable energy like solar. The typically conservative Great Plains states are moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy faster than most the more progressive states.

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