In July, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO) sent 90 cooperative member-owners to the Dakotas to learn about electric generation and to meet the people responsible for providing the electric power that is delivered to their homes, farms, and businesses. The annual Energy Trail Tour helps to demonstrate, first-hand, the value of an electric generation portfolio that includes coal as a part of America’s energy mix and educates members about how environmentally responsible power is possible, within a carbon-constrained world.
NIPCO purchases approximately 80% of its power supply from Basin Electric Power Cooperative and 20% from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) who markets power generated from the Missouri River Dam System. Because NIPCO’s total, blended generation portfolio from these suppliers includes electricity generated from coal, water, wind, natural gas, and other sources, NIPCO and its member cooperatives feel it is important to provide an opportunity for their end-users to get up-close and personal with the source of their electricity.
Energy Trail Tours showcase generation facilities that include hydropower at the Oahe Powerhouse and Dam in Pierre, South Dakota, and the coal-fired Antelope Valley Station in Beulah, North Dakota.
At Dakota Gasification Company, located adjacent to the 900-megawatt Antelope Valley Station, tour participants learn about the method of carbon-capture and coal gasification, as well as the many products manufactured through this process, including fuel additives such as DEF (diesel exhaust fluid), and fertilizers used in agricultural production such as anhydrous ammonia, ammonium sulfate (marketed as DAK SUL 45®), and urea.
A short trip just up the road to The Coteau Properties Company Freedom Mine allows member-owners the opportunity to see the mining process of the area’s lignite coal. Land that is mined is carefully returned to its original contour and reseeded to return to its original use, whether natural prairie or cropland, and monitored for several years. Often members catch a glimpse of the deer, foul, and antelope that graze on the reclaimed acres.
Energy Trail Tour participants also learn about wind generation and the importance of renewable energy resources in America’s overall energy mix. As such, the tour also includes a mobile classroom on the process of wind generation and how a turbine works.
Over the course of three educational and fun-filled days, members are also immersed in rural electric cooperative history, business model, and the Touchstone Energy® brand as well as gaining a deeper understanding and pride about the cooperative difference.