Public Service Commission holds hearing for expansion of Williams County power station

Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 2:03 PM CST
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - Having a reliable power source available to the public is important during peak times in the summer and winter. In order to keep up with future demand, Basin Electric Power Cooperative is looking to build upon their existing facility northwest of Williston.

The Pioneer Generation Station currently generates 242 megawatts for consumers throughout northwest North Dakota. On Thursday, Basin Electric Power Cooperative met with the Public Service Commission for permit approval to expand the site.

As the region diversifies their economy through the use of data centers and other planned industrial facilities, Benjamin Hertz, manager of power supply planning for Basin, says expanding the facility will limit potential shortages on the power grid.

“This generation is needed to support electric load growth in this area,” said Hertz.

Basin is looking to push for two combustion turbines and six combustion engines, totaling more than 583 megawatts of power. For comparison, Mountrail Williams Electric Cooperative had a peak of 650 megawatts this winter.

“Here’s a project that has almost 600 megawatts of power and will be almost 100% capacity factor, which means when you need it, you can turn it on. That’s a really valuable resource,” said Julie Fedorchak, commissioner of the Public Service Commission.

Basin was questioned by the commission on several concerns including environmental impact, their use of simple cycle turbines, and possible noise pollution affecting a nearby church.

“Our goal is not to see that it gets built or to stand in the way of a project, but to make sure that if it’s done, it’s done right,” said Randy Christmann, Public Service chairman.

Senior Environmental Analyst for Basin, Kevin Solie, said there would be minimal damages to the area, adding that they met with the township, but not any members of that church.

“It will really blend in with the existing pioneer generation station, so that is a small addition to the industrial nature of the area,” said Solie.

Securing this permit will be the first step towards expansion. Basin said they will also need to permit for an additional transmission line.

Basin plans on having part of the expansion operational in 2025 and fully completed in 2026.