State regulators will hold a hearing Dec. 17 on whether to give a Pierce County wind farm more time to install technology that will keep its turbines’ red lights off at night unless an aircraft flies nearby.
Avangrid Renewables has ordered the technology for the installation at Rugby Wind, but the company anticipates some of the equipment manufactured in Europe might not arrive in time. The deadline to comply with the state’s light mitigation law is the end of this year.
The developer is asking the North Dakota Public Service Commission for a five-month extension. The hearing on the request will take place at 11 a.m. in the PSC hearing room at the Capitol in Bismarck.
Avangrid originally expected the equipment to arrive this month, but some parts might not make their way to the wind farm until early next year due to global supply chain issues, the company told the PSC in a letter earlier this month.
The company already asked the PSC for an extension earlier this year so that it could install a different kind of mitigation system that dims the blinking lights based on visibility conditions. But the state denied that request because the system still requires federal approval, which commissioners felt would not happen in a timely manner. The only federally approved technology so far is the radar-based kind that causes the lights to blink when a plane or helicopter flies nearby.
The Legislature earlier this year changed the state’s light mitigation law to grant the PSC more leniency in issuing extensions and waivers for economic and technical reasons. Avangrid’s new request is based on those factors.
The commission has received at least eight requests for extensions and waivers concerning various wind farms across the state. The reasons vary from site to site, but commissioners indicated at a meeting Wednesday that they did not have much sympathy for wind farms experiencing supply chain woes given that their operators have known about the deadline for four years.
“They’re not in violation yet, but they’re knocking on the door,” Commissioner Brian Kroshus said. “They’re getting dangerously close.”
The end-of-year deadline applies to wind farms permitted before June 2016. Newer wind farms already have had to comply with the law, which passed in 2017. Supporters of the law say the blinking lights can be a nuisance at night.
Several newer sites failed to meet the first deadline of Dec. 31, 2019, and the PSC issued fines against their operators. Most penalties totaled several thousand dollars. It’s expected wind farms that miss the upcoming deadline also will be fined.
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