Ward County is on the radar of wind energy companies seeking new areas for expansion.
The Ward County Planning Office has had contacts with three companies interested in potential projects, including one that is considering reviving a portion of the large Hartland project that had been proposed 10 years ago.
NextEra Energy Resources acquired the Hartland project and is initiating wind monitoring in townships in and near the gooseneck of Ward County as well as in Mountrail and Renville counties.
“This is a very early stage part of the development process,” spokesman Bryan Garner said. “We need at least a year’s worth of consistent wind data so we can evaluate it when we look at a place to develop a wind farm. We look for the wind resource to be strong and consistent. We are looking for interconnection points so we can deliver the power.”
The company also held a dinner for landowners in May and has been meeting with landowners individually.
“We have gotten a good response so far. For landowners, there’s the opportunity to earn regular lease payments for participating in the project,” Garner said.
A wind turbine takes less than an acre of land, and farming and ranching operations can continue around the turbines.
NextEra has told the Ward County Commission that it is considering a 300-megawatt wind farm, consisting of about 150 turbines, which is downsized from the originally proposed 2,000-megawatt Hartland facility.
Another potential project in a preliminary stage is in the southeast corner of Ward County, involving about four townships north of Ruso. Southern Power purchased the development site from PRC Wind.
Southern Power is a subsidiary of Southern Company, a leading energy company in America. As of May 2018, Southern Power owns 10 wind facilities in Maine, Oklahoma and Texas, generating more than 1,690 megawatts of electricity.
The company is releasing no details at this time about the Ruso site.
A third company, EDF Renewable Energy, also has shown interest in the county. It is part of Energies Nouvelles’ renewable operations in North America. The company is a leading independent power producer with more than 30 years of expertise in the renewable industry, covering all range of services from project origination, development, sales and marketing to long-term asset management, according to its website.
EDF is looking at an area south of Minot, mostly east of U.S. Highway 83 and primarily in Gasman, Newman and Willis townships with a smaller portion in Freedom Township, according to the county planning office. Information from the company was not currently available.
Separately, EDF Renewable Development is developing the 150-megawatt Merricourt wind project in McIntosh and Dickey counties, according to the North Dakota Public Service Commission.
NextEra also has three wind facilities under development in North Dakota. Subsidiaries of NextEra, which has been in North Dakota since 2003, already own and operate 14 wind energy centers in 10 counties. The facilities are capable of generating nearly 1,250 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 375,000 homes.
NextEra’s annual North Dakota payroll is about $20.5 million. It contributes $5.8 million to the economy in annual land lease payments and paid $1.7 million in property taxes in 2016.
“We are not only the largest renewable energy company in North America, we believe in partnering in the communities that we serve, and we want to be a long-term partner in these communities. That means getting involved,” Garner said.
The company has provided educational programs on renewable energy for schools and has offered student field trips and teacher workshops on how to incorporate education on renewable energy into the curriculum.
NextEra donates to local charitable groups as well as contributes to the tax base.
Garner said the proposed project can be expected to create hundreds of construction jobs for six to nine months, benefiting local contractors and businesses. About a dozen or more full-time, good-paying operational jobs for wind technicians and administration and management staff could be created, he said.
The North Dakota PSC lists 1,536 wind turbines in projects across the state, capable of producing more nearly 3,000 megawatts of energy.
In Ward County, Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Minot Wind Project, south of Minot, consists of two turbines with a capacity of 2.6 megawatts. Minot Wind 2 adds another three turbines and 4.5 megawatts. The Prairie Winds Project owned by Basin Electric has 77 turbines capable of generating 115.5 megawatts.
The PSC reports another 9,193 megawatts of capacity has been proposed in the state, which does not include projects in investigation or early stages that have yet to seek PSC permits. It does includes the original Hartland Wind Farm that is being revised by NextEra. It also includes Capital Power’s 99-megawatt New Frontier Project near Velva, which is currently under construction. That 29-turbine project is expected to be operational by the end of the year.
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