Basin Electric celebrates 50th anniversary
This story is a condensed version of the original article that appeared in the October 2011 issue of North Dakota LIVING Magazine. You can receive North Dakota LIVING for only $14.50 per year. Subscribe by clicking on the advertisement above.
by Kent Brick
This month, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, marks a milestone in North Dakota energy development with its 50th anniversary. Several special events will commemorate the 50th anniversary, with the focal point of the celebrations at the annual meeting Nov. 8-9 in Bismarck.
|Ron Harper, left, Basin Electric chief executive officer, and Cliff Gjellstad, Basin Electric president, both say cooperative enterprise has been the lifeblood of the organization over its 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Basin Electric)
At the 2010 Basin Electric annual meeting, Basin Electric President Cliff Gjellstad, Norwich, spoke of the principles and values which make the cooperative strong at its half-century milestone.
“The cooperative really is a ‘special glue’ that binds members together. No matter how things may change, one thing does remain the same: the strength that comes from unity of purpose, and the support we have for each other as a wholesale power provider, a member system and a rural consumer,” said Gjellstad, who is a director for Verendrye Electric Cooperative, Velva, and Central Power Electric Cooperative, Minot. He represents Central Power on the Basin Electric board.
A vision for the future
On May 5, 1961, representatives of 67 rural electric systems signed documents that created Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck.
From these beginnings, Basin Electric has advanced its core business of generating and transmitting wholesale bulk electric power, primarily to 135 member electric cooperatives in nine states. Its subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company, owns and operates the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah.
For the 50th anniversary, Basin Electric has published “Generation for Generations – A Vision For Giant Power,” a 50-year history. In the book’s opening, Ron Harper, Basin Electric chief executive officer, speaks about the origins and mission of Basin Electric:
“Much of the rural area of the Northern Great Plains only obtained central station electric service in the 1940s and 1950s. While many of us may not have directly experienced gathering buffalo chips, hauling coal or cutting wood as the only means to heat our homes, we’ve certainly heard the stories from our parents or grandparents.
“When the barns and homes were wired and finally electrified, the demand for electricity grew rapidly because electricity created much easier, cleaner and hopeful lives. Soon the electric cooperatives that were initially formed to build the rural electric systems were looking for more capacity and that’s the very simple explanation of why Basin Electric exists.
“Leaders from the rural areas of the Northern Plains who founded Basin Electric used Leland Olds’ giant power concept by pooling their power requirements to build a large generating station to achieve economy of scale and to serve as many in the region as possible. The plan was to build a large generating station in the lignite fields of North Dakota near the Missouri River, using the federal transmission system and a postage-stamp rate.
“The founders required that the generating plants be built in a very environmentally friendly way. In fact, the cooperative became the first utility in the nation to require that surface-mined land be returned to rolling countryside. By the end of 2012, Basin Electric and its subsidiaries will have already invested more than $1.4 billion in various types of environmental controls on their facilities.
“On behalf of all the members who have benefited from the vision of this organization, I thank those that carried the water, made the tough decisions, and pushed forward when outcomes were uncertain. Because of them, we and generations to come have a cooperative that has withstood the test of time and is well-positioned to meet the challenges of the next 50 years and beyond,” Harper said.