Basin Electric seeks state OK for power plant expansion; data center industry cited
Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Basin Electric Power Cooperative is seeking state approval to expand a natural gas-fired power plant in McKenzie County in part to accommodate a growing data center industry in the region.

It would be the Bismarck-based company’s largest single-site electric generation project since the 1980s.

Basin in early October filed its application to the state Public Service Commission to expand the capacity of the Pioneer Generation Station from 242 megawatts to 583 megawatts — a $670 million project. A transmission line to connect to the grid would boost the figure to $790 million.

Basin is calling the addition Pioneer Generation Station Phase IV; it would represent a little more than a 141% increase in capacity, Basin Senior Staff Writer/Editor Tracie Bettenhausen told the Tribune. The last time Basin constructed a project of this size was Antelope Valley Station near Beulah, when the 450-megawatt first unit began commercial operation in 1984.

PSC Chair Julie Fedorchak said Basin cites “as a need for this, that the service area in northwestern North Dakota is experiencing a rapid increase in the development for server farm facilities, that host data centers and also cryptocurrency mining, as well as activities associated with oil and gas extraction from the Bakken shale formation, currently concentrated in McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams counties.”

The additional energy would be generated and distributed to the electrical grid system serving the rapidly increasing electricity requirements in northwestern North Dakota. Data centers require a large amount of electricity. The Pioneer Generation Station would improve the reliability of service in the area, Basin’s application states. Load forecasts show member cooperatives in the Bakken region will require more electricity by 2025.

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