Construction on the 100-turbine Courtenay Wind Farm will likely begin this spring, as the Stutsman County Zoning Board recommended approval of Geronimo Wind Energy’s conditional use permit and variance requests Wednesday.
The permit and variances will go before the Stutsman County Commission for final approval Tuesday.
“It was very positive that we got unanimous consent with the county for our permit,” said Betsy Engelking, vice president of Geronimo, adding that it was a testament to the effort her company had made to work with local landowners.
The northeast Stutsman County project will include 100 wind turbines, each of which will generate about 2 megawatts. The zoning board approved 127 possible locations for the windmills.
Before construction begins, however, Geronimo still has to hammer out the details of a road agreement showing where turbine access roads will go with the county and complete engineering plans for the underground collection system.
Once spring weight restrictions on the roads are lifted, Geronimo will upgrade the roads – improving road strength and adding temporary turns that will allow trucks with wind turbine parts to turn – and then construction will begin, Engelking said.
No landowners spoke against the project during Wednesday’s meeting, though landowner Rod Roaldson, whose property will have wind turbines on all four sides of it, did express some concerns.
“I don’t want to give anybody the wrong impression. We are for the Courtenay wind tower program,” Roaldson said.
He said the road in front of his home had not been graveled recently, and it could become dusty with increased traffic. He also praised Geronimo for working with landowners.
“… they are concerned with individuals and the problems that we have, and cooperation has been tremendous,” Roaldson said. “We just don’t necessarily agree with everything, but we’re working it out.”
In addition to Geronimo, local landowners have created a separate group, Courtenay Wind Farmers, to invest in the project, said Patrick Smith, Geronimo’s director of environmental planning.
Geronimo distributed information about the wind farm during the meeting that indicates the tax revenue from the project would reach about $885,000 per year, with about half going to the school district, 37 percent to Stutsman County and the rest to townships and fire districts.
During construction the project would add about 200 jobs to the county on a temporary basis, and about 15 full-time jobs paying $20 to $22 per hour would be permanent.
“This is a historic day,” said Dale Marks, Stutsman County commissioner, after the project was approved by the Zoning Board.
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