North Dakota’s largest wind farm: Concern raised for properties not enrolled in Courtenay Wind Farm project
The largest wind farm permit request ever made in North Dakota came under the scrutiny of the Public Service Commission Friday at the Stutsman County Law Enforcement Center conference rooms.
The request for a site permit for the Courtenay Wind Farm from Geronimo Energy encompasses a possible 100 to 136 wind turbines generating up to 200 megawatts of power in an area southwest of Courtenay in northwest Stutsman County.
North Dakota has larger wind farms but all were built in stages with separate permits, according to Brian Kalk, member of the PSC.
The footprint of the project runs about 11 miles from north to south and six miles from east to west.
But it is not the size of the footprint that concerns PSC members.
“I’ve never seen a project with as many people inside the project that are not participants,” Kalk said.
The map of the project includes about 16 quarter sections of land not participating in the project. Some of these properties have wind turbines near the property boundary.
Rod Roaldson, one of the property owners not participating, said it was a lifestyle choice.
“My wife was born on the quarter we purchased,” he said. “We’re romanticists. The economic value of a wind turbine means nothing to me. I don’t object to the project though. It is a great project for Courtenay and the farmers. We want the land we live on to be original. There is not enough room for us to live and a tower on the same land.”
Roaldson also said the hearing was his first opportunity to view the map of the planned turbines.
“I don’t want to call the wind towers a blight but they are a distraction,” he said. “I came from an area with noise and congestion and now our only noise is doves.”
Stutsman County wind turbine zoning requires the noise level at any occupied dwelling be less than 48.6 decibels, according to Dustin Bakken, tax equalization director and zoning administrator for Stutsman County.
Acoustical studies provided by Geronimo Energy indicated that those requirements would be met, according to Bakken.
Tricia Pellerin, acoustic engineer for Tetra Tech EC, said the studies were done to establish the noise levels of worst case scenarios.
Under questioning by Mollie Smith, attorney for Geronimo Energy, Pellerin said the modeling only includes the noise created by the wind turbine project and does not estimate the natural background noise of the area.
Roaldson said there were only two towers that impacted his property. He hoped they could be moved out of his view but still benefit his neighbors.
Other landowners saw no concerns with the wind turbines.
“Our family came to this area in 1905,” said Jeff Mitchell, Courtenay area farmer. “We covet our land more than anything. It was a big decision to go this way but we couldn’t see how this would compromise our land.”
Lee Dick, representing Courtenay Township and the landowners of the area, testified the project would benefit the community.
“One of the reasons Geronimo Energy has had a warm reception in the community is the way they did business,” he said. “They’ve included a per-acre payment for all signed up land in the project footprint, not just the land with wind turbines.”
Dick said the estimated taxes paid by the project included about $19 million over the next 20 years with the bulk going to Barnes County North School District.
Kalk said the decision-making process is likely to extend into the fall. The PSC had asked Geronimo Energy to prepare a number of reports for its consideration including more details concerning why some landowners refused to participate in the project.
He also requested Geronimo Energy prepare maps for both its 136-turbine plan and its 100-turbine plan.
“If the smaller plan doesn’t include some turbines close to some of the non-participating property it would make things easier,” Kalk said.
Smith said she hoped the additional information could be provided to the PSC within 30 days.
After those reports are received, Kalk anticipated another working hearing in September before the PSC would issue siting permits for the wind farm.
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