Utility company seeks regulatory nod for new gas turbine

MANDAN (AP) — Montana-Dakota Utilities has asked state regulators to consider its plan to build a second natural gas-fired power generator in North Dakota.
The utility company filed an application Thursday with the Public Service Commission seeking a determination that the proposed project north of Mandan is reasonable and prudent.
The utility isn’t required to obtain the distinction, Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said. But if it doesn’t, the company will have to defend the turbine’s projected $73 million cost before the commission.
“This new facility will add to our generation portfolio and provide our customers with a cost-effective capacity resource for many years into the future,” MDU President and CEO Nicole Kivisto said in a statement.
Construction is slated to begin in 2022 and finish in early 2023.
The company announced in February that it would close some of its coal facilities. Building the new gas unit while retiring the coal facilities will allow the utility to avoid a lengthy interconnection process with the region’s grid operator, MDU spokesman Mark Hanson said
The new 88-megawatts generator would run only when the demand for electricity across the grid is high. Such a turbine can fire up within 20 minutes, Hanson added.
The company expects the cost of adding the new turbine and purchasing power off the market to be half of what it would cost to continue operating the two coal power stations.