A company has filed plans with the state to develop a 150-megawatt, $300 million wind farm near Hettinger.
Wind Works Power Corp., developer of the Thunder Spirit Wind farm, filed a letter of intent with the Public Service Commission in August. It plans to start construction on the project next June and complete it by Dec. 31, 2012.
That date is significant because it is when a federal tax incentive will expire, said Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer.
“The likelihood of it being extended is probably 50-50,” he said.
The Production Tax Credit, created in 1992, is one of the main federal incentives for wind energy, providing a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of wind power production, according to the American Wind Energy Association. To qualify for the credit, a project has to be in operation before its expiration date.
“It has to be completed and has to be generating for at least one minute,” Cramer said. “Every time you get close to the expiration of the PTC, it creates some urgency that forces some activity.”
The PSC has several letters of intent for wind farm developments, an initial step in the approval process, but Minnesota Power’s Bison 3 extension of its farm in Morton and Oliver counties is the only major project going forward, according to Cramer.
“It’s the only one we know for sure that is being built,” he said.
If the Thunder Spirit project is built, it will be located 10 miles northeast of Hettinger in Adams County and consist of up to 75 wind towers, according to its letter to the PSC. The company is negotiating power purchase agreements with potential customers for its power, according a company press statement.
Cramer said that there is still significant demand for North Dakota wind energy that will likely spur more projects before the expiration of the PTC. Minnesota has a renewable energy standard that requires a proportion of energy generation to come from renewable sources, and utilities have relied on projects in North Dakota for wind power.
“Minnesota is our biggest customer. They always have been,” Cramer said. Xcel Energy has pursued wind energy generation here, and Cramer expects that it will eventually become part of a project in the state.
“You’ll definitely see some projects being built in 2012,” he said. “It won’t be a storm, but it’ll at least be a little bit of a squall.”
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