Group Proposes Less Coal, More Wind | VideoJennifer Joas | 12/4/2012
Seven coal plants burn coal day and night to power homes and businesses in North Dakota. But the Sierra Club is most concerned over the Heskett Plant just north of Mandan. Members say despite North Dakota getting an `A` rating from the American Lung Assocation for clean air, the Heskett plant is still putting out harmful pollutants.
"There still are a number of asthma attacks, a number of heart attacks and health concerns that are associated with it. So even though we are the best in the country, there is still room for improvement," said Wayde Schafer, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer.
So instead of burning coal, the Sierra Club would like to see the Heskett Plant phased out and the creation of more wind farms.
"In North Dakota, there is no shortage of wind. And so I think to harness that just makes sense. And there is no one silver bullet. I think it is a combination of things. Wind just needs to be a much bigger mix," said Schafer.
But Montana-Dakota Utilities, the operator of the Heskett Plant, says it meets all the current federal and state air quality and environmental standards. MDU says coal is also the cheapest and most reliable way to provide power. And now, natural gas can also be counted on.
"Before it was kind of a volatile priced fuel, but now with all the domestic production, it is becoming a much more stable prices option. Then when you get into the renewables, they are a good supplement, but they are not base load, they are not available 24 hours," said Mark Hanson of MDU.
MDU says if it were to close the Heskett Plant, it would need to build an 88 megawatt natural gas fired generation station, along with 88 megawatts of wind generation, which would cost $260 million. They say the cost for electricity would also rise.
MDU is constructing a gas fired plant just west of the Heskett station that will provide an additional 88 megawatts of power needed in North Dakota. That plant will cost $85 million.