The State of North Dakota is most commonly known as the nation’s top producer of agricultural commodities such as wheat and soybean crops, and more recently the second largest producer of crude oil. But what Americans might not be aware of is just how robust the North Dakota energy market is becoming. As the state’s oil and gas extraction reaches an all-time high, growth in other forms of energy production is occurring at a rapid pace, expanding capabilities in areas such as wind, solar, ethanol, and biodiesel production. The US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2020 report predicts these renewal energies will continue to steadily grow in production and demand through 2050 regardless of oil and gas production levels.
Growth in North Dakotan energy production capability is occurring across all renewables. In the case of wind power, Bismarck State College’s National Energy Center of Excellence reported the production of about 3,000 megawatts of power generated by more than 1,500 wind turbines. This amount will continue to increase as additional towers are being planned over the next several years. North Dakota might have ranked 11th in national production at the time the report was released in 2018, but its turbines hold the title of the most productive in America. The overall economic impact of North Dakota’s wind sector was valued at more than $170 million, with $60 million in personal incomes, over 500 well-paying jobs created, and $7.7 million in property taxes.
In conjunction with the rapid growth of wind power, solar is starting to show promise in many areas of the state. Small scale solar collection facilities exist in Cass County, on the campus of Bismarck State College, and at several locations operated by various electric cooperatives. Power generation by these solar facilities over the last couple of years averaged about 130 megawatts or the equivalent to one-sixth of a coal power plant’s capacity. The US Energy Information Administration reports that nationwide solar consumption has grown nearly 30% between since 2016, growing steadily year after year. Expansion of solar capacity is expected to continue throughout the state.
What does this energy growth mean for North Dakota? Opportunity. Opportunity for new well-paying jobs, expansion of property and sales-and-use tax collection, and growth for nonenergy based businesses. Enbridge, for example, reports their North Dakota expenditures alone exceeds $230 million across all production. Continued growth of renewable energy in the state will help strengthen the energy market even further by offsetting the projected gradual decline of oil and gas production over the next 30 years. The energy market will likely remain strong for the foreseeable future as North Dakota gradually expands energy transmission infrastructure throughout the region.
by Joseph A. Camisa, Jr.