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Great River Energy withdrawing from Big Stone II

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Willmar,Minnesota 56201
West Central Tribune
Great River Energy withdrawing from Big Stone II
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Great River Energy of Elk River is withdrawing as an owner of the $1.6 billion Big Stone II power plant, a new coal-fired power plant in extreme northeastern South Dakota, Big Stone II officials said Monday.


Big Stone II officials said Great River Energy representatives told them the decision stems from an analysis that included Great River's changing demand and other resources.

Great River Energy's share of the proposed 630-megawatt Big Stone II was 122 megawatts.

Participants in Big Stone II must reaffirm their commitment by certain dates. The next date is Sept. 21, and Great River Energy's members decided to drop out, officials said.

Also, project officials say Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which has a 49 megawatt share, can't make a longterm commitment until it resolves some litigation.

Officials say SMMPA could remain as a participant, though not as a direct owner.

The five project co-owners are Otter Tail Power Co., Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District, Missouri River Energy Services and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission held hearings on the project in June. South Dakota's Public Utilities Commission approved the Big Stone II construction last July.

Environmentalists are trying to stop the plant, saying so much new energy isn't needed, and that alternatives such as wind power should be explored first. They also say the plant would generate too much carbon dioxide.

On Monday, SMMPA emphasized its support for Big Stone II as a critical resource in helping meet regional needs, Big Stone II officials said in a release.

The lead developer for Big Stone II is Otter Tail Power of Fergus Falls. Ward Uggerud, senior vice president, said Great River Energy's exit does not change the need for new power and transmission facilities for the remaining utilities.

"The remaining utilities' load requirements show Big Stone II to be the least-cost option for meeting our customers' demand requirements even if we were to choose to downsize the project given these changes in participation," he said.

Uggerud said it's not uncommon for such changes in large, extensive projects, particularly during a long regulatory process.