The North Dakota Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing on the latest request from a wind farm operator seeking more time to comply with a year-end deadline to install light mitigation technology.
The commission has received eight requests from companies hoping for either an extension or a waiver from the requirement, which takes effect at the end of 2021. Without an extension or waiver, companies must equip their wind farms with technology that keeps the red lights atop turbines from blinking all night, or risk a penalty for missing the deadline.
The most recent company to ask for more time is Onward Energy Holdings, which owns the Sunflower wind farm in Morton and Stark counties. The company filed its request with the PSC on Nov. 12 and wants until June 30, 2022, to comply with the law.
The PSC has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 10 at 8:30 a.m. in its hearing room at the state Capitol in Bismarck. The commission cannot schedule a hearing before the deadline due to the late date of Onward’s request and requirements surrounding the timeline of public notices, Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak said.
“Unless they move forward to complete this on their own prior to the end of the year, they will be out of compliance even before we have the hearing,” she said.
Onward told the PSC in its request that it had hoped to install a different kind of mitigation technology that dims the lights based on visibility conditions, but that technology has not yet received federal approval. It plans to install a radar-based system that turns the lights on briefly when an aircraft flies in the vicinity, but it said it has encountered problems with such a system at its wind farms in Maine. Onward ran into software problems, and ice falling from wind turbines has damaged equipment. The company has built a roof system to protect the equipment, but that project was costly and has not yet been fully evaluated.
Onward is working with a vendor to install a radar system at its North Dakota wind farm, but work is not expected to wrap up until next year, according to the company.
The flurry of similar requests before the PSC stems from a law the North Dakota Legislature passed this year giving the commission greater flexibility over implementing the light mitigation requirement. Newer wind farms already had to install the technology. Those that missed the 2019 deadline were fined as much as $10,000.
The upcoming deadline applies to older wind farms that received state permits before June 2016.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding