This summer, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO), in partnership with Corn Belt Power Cooperative, sent 124 cooperative member-owners, Directors, and staff 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 three tours, which took place on June 28-30, July 12-14, and July 26-28, demonstrated first-hand the value of an electric generation portfolio that includes coal as a part of America's all-of-the-above energy approach and educated 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) which 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 vital to provide an opportunity for their end-users to get up-close and personal with the source of their electricity.
Annual Energy Trail Tours showcase generation facilities, including hydropower at the Oahe Powerhouse and Dam in Pierre, South Dakota, and the coal-fired Antelope Valley Station in Beulah, North Dakota.
A short trip up the road to The Coteau Properties Company Freedom Mine allows member-owners to see the mining process of the area's lignite coal. Mined areas are carefully returned to their original contour and reseeded to return to their 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.
The tour includes an overview of wind generation and the importance of renewable energy resources in America's overall energy mix. Tour participants also learn about the method of carbon capture and coal gasification at Dakota Gasification Company as well as the thirteen other co-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.
Over three educational and fun-filled days, members are also immersed in rural electric cooperative history, business model, and the Touchstone Energy® brand, gaining a deeper understanding and pride in the cooperative difference.
Individuals interested in signing up for the 2024 Energy Trail Tours are encouraged to contact their cooperative for more information.