On a 2 to 1 vote, the North Dakota Public Service Commission failed to approve the siting application for a wind farm in Ward and McLean Counties.
The issue for the proposed Ruso Wind Project was the so called “Aircraft Detection Lighting System.” It was permitted after June 6th, 2016 – and that means it would have to have a system that didn’t have the constant, blinking red lights on the turbine towers, but would turn on lights when it detected an aircraft nearby. And that law gave the PSC no authority to issue waivers.
But the US Air Force objected, because of helicopters from the Minot Air Force Base that were used to check on missile silos in the area. The Federal Aviation Administration sided with the Air Force, and said the wind farm had to be built with the traditional blinking red lights.
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak moved to approve the siting plan, with the standard lighting – but requiring the developer to install the ADLS system when the FAA would give its go-ahead. Fedorchak said when the Legislature discussed this requirement, the intent was to give the PSC some discretion.
“I feel that it was clear in those discussions, that the FAA would be consulted and listened to,” Fedorchak said. “Their preference for the lighting system ultimately must be recognized.”
But the other Commissioners rejected that.
“Regardless of what the Legislature envisioned, to me the language is pretty clear here,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann.
PSC chairman Brian Kroshus also said law is black-and-white.
“For wind farmer permitted after June 5th, 2016, it was ‘must have ADLS that is approved by the FAA,'” Kroshus said.
The PSC decision was not an outright denial of the permit, and the case is still pending. Ruso Wind has the option of taking that decision to court.
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