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

State Economy

The population of the “Peace Garden State,” North Dakota is approximately 0.80 million people[1]. South Dakota is the 47th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, South 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, 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 April 2022, utilities[5] used renewable energy (55.0 %), coal (42.2 %), and natural gas (2.8 %) to generate electricity in North Dakota. Wind and hydropower are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in North Dakota.

In April 2022, the cost of residential electricity in North Dakota was 10.48 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 14.77 ¢ 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. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 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.


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 lignite coal in North Dakota.

In 2005, 93.8  % of North Dakota’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[7]. In April 2022, only 42.4 % 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. State utilities are now turning North Dakota’s renewable energy resource potential into clean green energy.

Fossil fuels (coal, oil. and natural gas) have been an integral part of North Dakota’s economy for over 100 years. However, concerns over climate change and economics are causing the “Peace Garden State” to turn from coal to renewables!


Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

[1] North Dakota Population 2022, 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, August 13, 2021

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

[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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