Big power, big money

South Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2005  | September 2005 issue

A group of seven power companies have signed an agreement to make what is believed to be the single largest investment ever made in South Dakota.

The group plans to build a new coal-fired generation plant near Milbank, near the border with Minnesota and current home of the Big Stone power plant. The project, a 600-megawatt plant dubbed Big Stone II, would double the total generation capacity at the site. The expected price tag is estimated at $1.3 billion and includes badly needed upgrades to the transmission system. The seven investor utilities are also investigating the possibility of fueling the plant with biomass, but otherwise will use coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

Notably, the project is not intended to produce power for sale on the open market, but to meet the increasing power demands of seven investor utilities, all of whom are headquartered in the Dakotas and Minnesota, and who serve over 1 million customers in a seven-state region between Montana and Wisconsin.

If the plant makes it through rigorous environmental and permitting processes, construction will begin in 2007. The first watts will get cranked out in 2011. Plant construction is expected to create an average of 625 jobs, with a possible peak of as many as 1,500. Once operational, the plant will employ between 30 and 40 workers.

Ronald A. Wirtz