The Public Service Commission has approved a siting permit for a wind farm in Burke County.
That, after rejecting a proposed wind farm in that general area in 2019, because of concerns about its impact on wildlife.
Next Era Energy Resources redesigned the 200 megawatt wind farm, renaming it the Northern Divide Wind Energy Center. The new design has a smaller footprint. It will cover 11,000 acres of land – about half the size of the earlier Burke Wind Farm, and consist of 74 turbines. It avoids many of the areas that would be wildlife habitat. That was a bone of contention with North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All turbines would be located in cropland.
When the PSC rejected the original project, Game and Fish said the company couldn’t have picked a “worse place” for a wind project. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the changes make it much more palatable to the wildlife community.
“All in all, I think that the company did what it needed to do, to reach the threshhold of ‘minimal inpact’ as required under the law, to receive the siting permit,” Fedorchak said.
Commissioner Randy Christmann voted for the siting permit. But he did offer this observation.
“I continue to believe that our country is over-saturating our electric grid with intermittent energy, at the expense of baseload energy,” Christmann said. “But this is a siting case, and we have to decide this based on the North Dakota siting act.”
Christmann said given that criteria, the project meets the requirements of the siting act.
The project will cost $300 million to build. A 345 kilovolt power line will be built in Burke and Mountrail Counties for the generated power, at a $30 million cost. Basin Electric Power Cooperative will buy the electricity. Commissioners said Next Era is planning to have the wind farm in service by the end of the year.