Apex Clean Energy proposes two wind farms, Bowman and Williams counties approached by Virginia energy firm
BOWMAN – Wind turbines have been a topic of conversation in western North Dakota for the past couple of years.
Now, Bowman and Williams counties may join the conversation after Apex Clean Energy, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., approached both counties with wind farm proposals.
Bowman County already has a 13-turbine wind farm, owned and operated by MDU Resources, which is located on two landowner’s properties.
The proposed wind farm, which is currently unnamed, would affect a much larger area, said Dahvi Wilson, Apex director of public affairs.
The estimated 100-turbine project would be located between Bowman and Rhame, and cover between 25,000 to 35,000 acres. The projected finish date would be in either 2018 or 2019.
Homestead Wind, the official name of the proposed wind farm in Williams County, also has an estimated 100 turbines and would affect 40 to 50 landowners, Wilson said. The projected finish date would be in 2018.
Apex has been meeting with Bowman County landowners and conducting open-house meetings to gauge interest in the proposal.
Chad Njos is one of those landowners who has attended those informational meetings. He owns and rents six sections of land that would be affected by the proposed wind farm.
“I think we all want to learn more about it,” he said. “There’s people wanting to learn more. There’s always people against it. As far as knowing the consensus yet, there isn’t one.”
Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, also attended one of those meetings.
“There was a lot of people there, some were interested in it and some weren’t,” Bowman said.
He went to the meeting to obtain information and said he took home a “big book” to read up on wind farms and wind energy, adding he plans to become educated in that area.
“I care about the people down here a lot and I want everyone to know what they are getting into,” he said.
When Bowman County’s first wind farm was constructed around five years ago, it was an easy process with the approval. Bowman County Commissioner Rick Braaten was in office when they approved that project.
“It kind of goes through the zoning board first,” he said. “They kind of determine they have certain regulations on the zoning part of it that they need to go by, and as far as if everyone else is OK with it, we pretty much OK it. It wasn’t that hard to (approve), but that was only for 13 turbines so, it wasn’t that big of an area.”
Njos also can see the differences between the older wind farm and the proposed new wind farm.
“It’s going to take a while,” Njos said. “There’s not much as far as support behind it. But things keep changing, and you know, whether we want to change or we’re forced to change, I guess we’ve got to be open to it and I don’t think anyone has decided if this is a good thing or not.”
One thing everyone can agree on is that they want to support what is best for the community.
“With any of these big changes like this, it takes community to do it because it affects the community and we got to look at it long term, too,” Njos said.
Bowman wants the decision to stay in the hands of those that will be affected the most.
“To me, it’s up to the landowner to make that decision,” he said. “I’m not gonna try to make a decision for landowners. That’s their right to decide if they want them or not.”
It seems like landowners aren’t speaking about it too much yet and are still waiting on making a verdict.
“It’s pretty early in the game yet, I think,” Braaten said, adding he hasn’t landowners talking much about the project.
Williams County Commissioner Dan Kalil, of Williston, will be going through the same debates in the future. The commission has approved two meteorological test towers in the county to measure data that Apex will use to see if they will continue their proposal.
Kalil is seeing the same disputes in Williams County as in other parts of southern North Dakota.
NextEra Energy Resources’ Brady Wind Energy Center I in southern Stark County, an 87-turbine wind farm that is nearing full approval, had to be moved to a different location before the Stark County Commission approved it. NextEra is also proposing the Brady Wind Energy Center II in Hettinger County near New England, which could have between 40 and 70 turbines.
“There’s always a small group of people that want something and then there’s another group of people that are like, ‘No, we don’t want to look at those things,’” he said.
Apex is planning to file its formal application with the Williams County Commission this fall and will work on developing the plans in Bowman County throughout the year with a possibility of filing a formal application late in 2016.
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