One of the nation’s largest not-for-profit electric generation/transmission operators, North Dakota-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative, recently received more than a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of the federal agency’s $2.9 billion rural energy infrastructure financing program.

Basin Electric’s proposed 300 MW Deer Creek natural gas-fired power plant in South Dakota is getting $405 million for financing as part of the Bismarck, ND-based cooperative’s USDA awards. The rest of its federal loan guarantees — $153 million — will be used for developing two wind projects that collectively will generate 120 MW.

Now under construction, the Deer Creek gas-fired plant is scheduled to come online in the spring of 2012, the cooperative said. It is pursuing new gas-fired and renewable generation in response to the increased demand collectively that its 135 member rural electric systems spread over nine states (Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming).

Deer Creek is a combined-cycle generation facility located near Elkton, SD, in Brookings County. The project was approved by Basin Electric’s board of directors in October 2007, and it received what Basin called key environmental approvals earlier this year.

USDA loan guarantees on the two wind projects will permit the cooperative’s Minot Wind 2 and Prairie Winds projects that are south of Minot, ND, to move forward. A spokesperson for Basin told local news media that the power producer/transporter was not surprised by the federal loan guarantees.

Among the USDA awards, Basin collectively came away with the largest grants, although there were other substantial awards to power providers in Georgia and Mississippi that also included financing for gas-fired generation plants. In some cases, the awards were to cover both generation and transmission facilities.

Oglethorpe Power Corp. in Georgia was approved for roughly $373 million to cover purchasing two gas-fired generation plants, and Mississippi Electric Power Association was awarded $267 million to add 150 MW of combustion turbines and install new heat recovery steam generators at existing steam generation units.

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