The extensions of the production tax credit for renewable energy passed as part of the agreements averting the fiscal cliff may bring wind farm construction to the Courtenay area this year, according to Betsy Engelking, vice president of Geronimo Wind Energy.
Engelking said the Courtenay project could be sized between 100 and 200 megawatts and range from about 58 to 120 turbines. The total cost of the project would range between $200 million and $350 million.
“The extension was very important,” she said. “It reduces the cost of wind energy to buyers. We expect activity of wind energy buyers to pick up.”
Engelking said the law is different than previous wind energy production tax credits. Wind farms that are under construction as of the end of 2013 will be eligible for tax credits for 10 years. Previous laws had required wind farms to be completed by the deadline for any future tax credits.
“The Courtenay project and other projects in Minnesota are all very ripe for some sort of project this year,” she said. “There is a lot of interest in the North Dakota projects because of the good wind resources.”
The process of planning the Courtenay wind farm began several years ago with contacting land owners and gathering wind and weather information. The engineering and licensing processes have accelerated recently.
“The development starts with identifying the resource and getting the land owners involved,” Engelking said. “We’ve sped up development on the site in the last six months.”
Engelking said the next steps for the Courtenay project include getting permits and arranging the connectivity from the wind farm to the power grid.
“We’re making a deposit with MISO (Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator) for the interconnectivity study,” she said.
MISO operates the power grid in a multi-state area of the Midwest. The interconnectivity study determines what effect on the power grid will occur when additional electricity from the Courtenay wind farm is added. It is required before any new power source comes online.
Geronimo Wind is also planning on applying to the North Dakota Public Service Commission for a location permit during January.
“We expect that permit to be in place by mid-year,” she said.
Construction could begin shortly after the permit processing is complete.
The supply of wind turbines is not anticipated to be an issue.
“There has been less production of wind turbines due to the uncertainty of the production tax credit,” Engelking said. “We anticipate it will take a while but production will catch up with demand.”
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