The PSC has approved the proposed wind farm to be located in Adams County with a 2-1 vote.
Thunder Spirit Wind, LLC, has been seeking permission to place between 50 and 75 wind turbines in Duck Creek and Holt townships. After several public hearings with the zoning and planning committee, it recommended the project be approved and sent it to the County Commissioners.
They approved the project, and it went onto the next step of a public meeting with the Public Service Committee, whose job is, in part, to oversee energy development in the state. Currently, the three-member commission consists of Randy Christmann, Chairman Brian Kalk and Julie Fedorchak.
Depending on the size of the turbine, the 150 mg watt farm will place between 50 and 75 of the towers, said Dan Albano, the first witness called by Thunder Spirit.
“We are using three turbine models to ensure optimum use of land and wind resources,” he explained at the PSC meeting held in Hettinger last month.
The project hearings had been delayed at times, as the county wanted the set back of the turbines from homes to be further than required by the state. They will be one-half mile away, the furthest set back on any wind turbine project done to date.
“This is by far the most restrictive (setback)… the board has been involved in,” said Kalk.
Typically the PSC uses a 1,400-foot setback as a rule of thumb for wind projects, he said, but he is in favor of letting the county determine what it thinks is appropriate.
The county went for a more distant setback because the landowners involved in the project and others, had concerns about effects of the turbines, including flicker and sound.
After reviewing testimony from its own and other meetings, the commissioners voted to approve the project, with Commissioner Christmann voting against the project, siting concerns over several issues, mainly that Thunder Spirit has yet to sign and agreement for sale of the generated power, if the power generated is sold to North Dakota customers it could impact ratepayers substantially, he said.
Christmann said Thunder Spirit Wind should “show how it fits” into the state’s energy picture.
He also cited legislation passed in 2007. The law set an objective of having 10 percent of the state’s energy production to come from renewable sources including wind by 2015.
“Clearly that 10 percent objective has been met and surpassed,” Christmann said.
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said she believed the power generated by the wind farm likely would be used in the oil patch in the northwest part of the state, where power is in high demand. She said the 10 percent renewable energy objective wasn’t likely meant to be a set limit on such energy production.
“I don’t believe it was a floor or ceiling,” Fedorchak said. “I tend to think the company has done its work.
The $300 million project is set to begin late this year or early next, and take about 9 months to complete. During construction, the roads to access the area will need to be widened, to accommodate the crane used to put up the towers and blades. At the completion of each phase of the construction, the equipment will be removed from the area, said Albano. After they are done, the roads will be put back to their regular width, and then maintained by Thunder Spirit so it has continuous, immediate access to any of the turbines.
“Each turbine will require about 40 to 50 hours of maintenance per year, mainly lubrication and fluid top offs, regular maintenance,” he told the commission. “Each individual turbine will also be monitored with a 24/7 alarm system, automatic brake system to stop the blades and a battery backup.”
It will bring in an estimated $650,000 annually to the county’s tax base, in addition to paying an estimated
$800,000 – or slightly more than $10,000 per tower – in lease payments to the landowners.
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