The “Peace Garden State” Moving From Coal To Renewables!

State Economy

The population of the Peace Garden State, North Dakota is approximately 0.77 million people[1]. South Dakota is the 48th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, North Dakota’s economy was ranked 46th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, coal, oil, natural gas, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2007, North Dakota enacted the Renewable and Recycled Energy Objective[4] which requests investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities to sell 10% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2015.

In May 2021, North Dakota’s utilities[5] used coal (49.6 %), renewable energy (47.8 %), and natural gas (2.6 %), and coal (3.6 %)  to generate electricity. Wind and hydropower are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in North Dakota.

In May 2021, the cost of residential electricity in North Dakota was 11.94 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.71 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy projects in North Dakota include –

  • 299 MW Wind Project – In January 2021, Italian energy company, Enel commissioned the Aurora Wind project at a site approximately 175 miles northwest of the state capital, Bismarck.
  • 200 MW Wind Project – In December 2020, Florida utility NextEra Energy commissioned the Northern Divide Wind Energy project at a site approximately 150 miles northwest of Bismarck.
  • 200 MW Solar Project – Colorado solar company, Dakota Power Partners is continuing work on the Harmony Solar Project at a site approximately 180 miles east of Bismarck.
  • 150 MW Wind Project – In December 2020, Minnesota electric utility, Otter Tail Power Company commissioned the Merricourt Wind Energy Center project at a site approximately 90 miles southeast of Bismarck.

Conclusion

Commercial coal mining in North Dakota began in 1873[6] approximately 20 miles west of Bismarck. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, forges, and furnaces. In 2020, five coal mines produced 27.0 tons of primarily lignite coal in North Dakota.

In 2005, 93.8  % of North Dakota’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[7]. In April 2021, only 49.6 % of the state’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal without subsidies is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like wind and solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40 % to 45 % more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

North Dakota has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, and geothermal. The state’s renewable energy resource potential is turning North Dakota into one of America’s new green energy hubs.

Coal, oil. and natural gas have been an integral part of New Mexico’s economy for over 100 years. However, concerns over climate change and economics are causing the “Peace Garden State” to move from coal to renewables!

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

[1] North Dakota Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in North  Dakota – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – North Dakota State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6]History of Coal in North Dakota, State Historical Society of North Dakota

[7] EIA, Electric Power Sector Consumption Estimates, North Dakota 1960-2018

[8] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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