Basin Electric fells decommissioned wind turbine near Minot

Basin Electric fells decommissioned wind tower

Jill Schramm/MDN A wind tower is toppled south of Minot Monday. Basin Electric is decommissioning the two 20-year-old towers known as Willy and Wally.

The 154-ton wind tower hit the ground south of Minot with a loud boom as traffic whizzed by on nearby U.S. Highway 83 Monday.

It was the planned and coordinated demolition of one of the oldest wind towers in North Dakota to feed the electrical grid.  A demolition crew from Minnesota began working Monday morning to set up cables and cut into the blue tower pedestal, using the “chop and drop” method to eventually bring the tower down like falling timber about 11:15 a.m.

By afternoon, a second turbine also was felled.

The turbines were two, located about 14 miles from Minot, that Basin Electric Cooperative decommissioned. Affectionately nicknamed “Willy” and “Wally,” the 1.3-megawatt turbines have stood for 20 years. They were named for Wally Beyer and Gary Williamson, two cooperative leaders in the Basin Electric family who promoted innovation and stewardship. Williamson was a longtime general manager of Central Power Electric Cooperative in Minot. Beyer served as manager of Verendrye Electric in Velva for 30 years.

“It’s probably really bittersweet for the early cooperative leaders who decided we are going to try to get into wind energy, and then to actually build these and then see where wind energy has gone in these last 20 years. To see these two come down is probably bittersweet for them,” said Basin Electric spokesperson Tracie Bettenhausen.

Jill Schramm/MDN Workers cut into a wind turbine pedestal with torches Monday in preparation for bringing down the structure.

“In this particular case, the wind turbines were not viable to us anymore,” said Joe Fiedler, manager of distributed generation for Basin Electric. “The vendor has gone out of business — a number of years ago. We salvaged all the parts we could. We’ve been getting aftermarket parts for a period of years and we just couldn’t get any more parts and service for those two particular units. So the decision was made to remove them.”

He said the fluids in the towers were drained so there would be no environmental impact with the demolition. Wind speeds also needed to be minimal for the removal.

The contractor will salvage the metal and landfill any parts not salvageable. Bettenhausen said the 200-foot pedestals and nacelle are largely made of cast iron, and the 100-foot-long blades are fiberglass. The turbines sat on an 18-foot diameter foundation. The foundation and underground cables will be removed at a future time.

“When we reclaim the entire site, our responsibility is to take the base and all the underground cabling and anything that’s four feet or less underground,” Fiedler said. “At this point, it’s going to stay in place, in case there is something else we decide to do at those particular sites. And then we need to access through the sites to get to the other towers.”

In addition to Willy and Wally, the Minot Wind site has three 1.5-megawatt turbines erected in 2009. The nearby PrairieWinds site has 77 1.5-megawatt turbines, also erected in 2009. Basin Electric has more than 1,700 megawatts of wind in its energy portfolio.

Jill Schramm/MDN A wind tower hits the ground Monday after a crew worked to bring it down. The structure will be dismantled and recycled or disposed of.

Bettenhausen said Willy and Wally have not generated much electricity or provided it as often in the last couple of years because Basin Electric hasn’t been able to maintain them due to the inability to get replacement parts. However, they did produce some power in 2021. During their service lives, the turbines supplied power to Basin’s nine-state grid and served five North Dakota-based power cooperatives.

“They were Basin’s first foray into wind energy,” Bettenhausen said. “Several years later, we started building this PrairieWinds wind project, which at the time it was built was the largest in the United States owned solely by cooperative. And then we built one down in South Dakota that actually was larger than this one, and that one remains the largest owned solely by a cooperative in the United States.”


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