A state regulatory commission gave approval Wednesday for a large wind farm in Rolette County, saying the agency had done its due diligence on ensuring the company and federal wildlife officials communicate on the mitigation of potential impacts on bald eagles.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission gave the green light to the project for Rolette Power Development LLC to construct as many as 59 wind turbines for the production of up to 100 megawatts of wind energy.
Commissioners said the project, to be located on nearly 15,000 acres of land about 3 miles southwest of Rolette, has strong support from community stakeholders who have pushing the project.
“That’s not usually what you see,” Commissioner Brian Kalk said.
With an estimated project cost of $175 million, stakeholders will likely need to find a buyer to invest in the construction of the project for it to move forward, according to Kalk.
During the public hearing process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “determined that there was no eagle’s nests in the project area,” but that there were a few bald eagle nests nearby, Kalk said.
The state doesn’t have set guidelines on buffers for bald eagle nests from wind farms. The company amended its application to allow for various stipulations to minimize impact on the birds. These include the removal of dead livestock as well as roadkill in the project area to keep eagles from wandering into the project area.
With an increase in wind energy projects in the state and a growing bald eagle population “the eagles issue is going to be more and more significant” in the future, according to Kalk.
Commissioner Randy Christmann said he was in favor of the project but not because of the local enthusiasm.
“I think it’s needed and efficient,” said Christmann, adding that the project would connect to existing transmission lines if an agreement is made for the purchase of the power.
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