After years of planning and 17 months of construction, Otter Tail Power Company’s Merricourt Wind Energy Center is operational. Located in southeast North Dakota, blades are spinning on this 150-megawatt (MW) facility, harnessing some of our nation’s best wind resources to generate power.
Otter Tail Power Company’s customers have seen the benefits of wind resources since 2002. But this project will go down in company history. “Completing the Merricourt Wind Energy Center marks a major milestone,” said Otter Tail Power Company President Tim Rogelstad. “At approximately $260 million, Merricourt is the largest capital investment in Otter Tail Power Company’s history, bringing us one step closer to our goal of serving customers with more than 35 percent renewable energy by 2023. Thank you to everyone involved with this project. From community members, civic leaders, and government agencies, to employees and contractors, your tireless efforts and dedication have made it possible.”
By 2023 approximately 35 percent of the company’s energy generation will come from renewable resources, with nearly 90 percent of that renewable energy being wind powered.
Bringing benefits to North Dakota
The Merricourt Wind Energy Center’s 75 Vestas wind turbines will produce enough energy to power 65,000 homes annually. EDF Renewables developed the project and local contractor Wanzek Construction built it. The project created 260 jobs during peak construction, generated more than 260,000 labor hours, and resulted in several million dollars in lodging and restaurant spending.
“In the rolling hills of southeast North Dakota, Otter Tail Power Company’s Merricourt Wind Energy Center is taking advantage of some of our nation’s greatest wind resources,” said North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. “This facility is a prime example of how we can forge innovative solutions to meet North Dakota’s energy needs in a sustainable and cost-effective way using an all-of-the-above energy approach. Congratulations to the company and the community in celebrating this remarkable achievement.”
A perfect match
The Merricourt Wind Energy Center is part of the company’s plan to meet customers' future energy needs, replace expiring power purchase agreements, and prepare for the 2021 retirement of its 1950s-era 140-MW Powder River Basin coal-fired Hoot Lake Plant in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. “Merricourt will be the lowest-cost resource in our energy generation fleet, making this the right project at the right time for continuing to provide our customers with low-cost, reliable, increasingly clean energy,” said Rogelstad.
Its partner project, Astoria Station in Deuel County, South Dakota, will complement wind resources by providing a reliable backstop when the wind isn’t blowing. Its 245-MW simple-cycle natural gas combustion turbine will be able to ramp up quickly, filling gaps when customer demand for energy is high or conditions for renewable energy generation aren’t ideal. Astoria Station will get its natural gas for electric generation from Northern Border Pipeline, which includes natural gas from North Dakota’s Williston Basin and synthetic natural gas from Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, North Dakota. The company expects Astoria Station to come on line in first quarter 2021.