Bismarck Tribune: State Needs Both Coal AND Wind Power

The Bismarck Tribune published an article on March 12, 2017, advocating for comprehensive energy solutions in North Dakota, of which wind plays a significant role in the state's energy future. 

State needs both coal and wind power

There’s room in North Dakota for both coal and wind power.

Both have their strong points and drawbacks. While coal can foul the air, plants have become “cleaner” over the years. It’s also a reliable form of power. Wind turbines can be noisy for those living in the vicinity. Many consider the wind towers an eyesore and they aren’t bird-friendly. They do provide clean power, but when the wind doesn’t blow they aren’t effective.

Legislators argued over a proposal recently to slap a moratorium on new wind projects in the state. In the end they settled on a study of the state’s energy resources. A study makes more sense than a moratorium, but the Tribune isn’t convinced a study will change how we use wind and coal.

There’s research underway on how to produce “cleaner” coal. Carbon capture, which used to be a dirty word, has been gaining ground. We have reduced the amount of pollutants going into the air from coal plants. It all points to the fact that coal still has a future as an energy resource.

Wind power, on the other hand, has been getting a chillier reception recently. Large wind farms don’t seem as attractive as they did in the beginning. Residents also find the turbines noisy and the birds likely favor a moratorium.

The goal of the state and industry should be to minimize the drawbacks of both and maximize the benefits of both. The wind and coal industries are beginning to work together and power sharing agreements have been reached. We should continue to move in this direction.

Both industries should have to earn any government incentives by using them to create more reliable and environmental-friendly power. If a North Dakota study can help move the industries in that direction it will be worthwhile.

Those who believe in coal are worried about the potential loss of jobs. They don’t want to see other plants close like Stanton Station did recently. Research and smart planning can provide coal with a future.

Public Service Commission Chairman Randy Christmann told the Tribune’s Nick Smith that it’s a balancing act in terms of expanding the state's energy production and ensuring there's enough capacity on the grid for electricity for times when demand spikes seasonally. The study will help prepare for the future, according to Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan. "We've just got to sit back ... look at the big picture," Cook told Smith.

That’s the smart approach.

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