October 13, 2017

This is the second filing from my recent trip to Bismarck covering the Energy Development and Transmission Committee (EDTC) and having encapsulated the first day, what follows is the gist of the second. Each year, the EDTC attends the EmPower ND Energy Conference and this was it. It pulls in the Who’s Who of ND Government and Energy related people. Senator Hoeven kicked it off followed by video messages from the Governor, Senator Heitkamp and Representative Cramer. Carbon capture via a process called the Allam Cycle was discussed as scaling up to industrial size is reaching completion. This would allow new coal generating plants to operate without emitting Co2, using that captured gas for oil field purposes of enhanced oil recovery among other uses. It can be a game-changer for our lignite industry and has been discussed for the last 5 years or so. Last year I traveled to Houston to see the first industrial scale operation come on line for testing and it appears to be progressing as a solution.
Then drones were talked about as incredibly useful for utility companies for many reasons, mainly safety and quick response to damaging storms or accidents as well as maintenance. This has meaning to our growers as it is a market that can provide stability to our ND UAS (unmanned aerial systems) industry while they work to improve the security, privacy and speed to handle the data which comes in huge volumes from the drones. I live near Hillsboro and they hosted a 4 X 40 mile experimental flyover zone these past two years through the efforts guided by Dr. Nowatzki from NDSU Research and Extension. One lesson learned was that data gathered by the drone needs some work for farmers to receive actionable information. In other words, for drones to be useful for our growers such as fertilizer needs, specific identification of weeds as well as their location in a field, stand counts, etc., we need to learn how to get data back to the grower that flyover day or the next. Dr. Nowatzki continues to explore Internet 2.0, and tells me that if a user has fiber optic on the farm that solves a big part of the problem. I understand that he is optimistic that within 10 years or possibly less, drones could be a very valuable tool.
In those two days I was able to speak with many legislators, the Lt. Governor, PSC Commissioners and others to help educate about NDSGA concerns with our policy makers. Executive Director Johnson of the NDSGA tells me that there have been unexpectedly good yields coming out of the southeast part of ND. Despite the fact that not all will have the yields desired, I hope that if you are not yet done, this run of good drying weather is helping you all finish up with the soybeans in a timely manner.