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$350M wind farm approved in Stutsman County

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BISMARCK – The North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved a $350 million wind farm in Stutsman County after the project’s developer made changes to accommodate an aerial spraying business.

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The Courtenay Wind Farm will encompass 21,000 acres with 100 wind turbines generating a total of 200 megawatts of electricity that will be purchased by Northern States Power Co., a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy.

Construction on the site, located west of Wimbledon in northeastern Stutsman County, will likely begin in early June, said Betsy Engelking, vice president of development for Edina, Minn.-based Geronimo Energy, the project’s developer. The company expects the turbines to be producing power by the end of next year, she said.

A public hearing on the project was held July 12 in Jamestown. In a July 18 letter to the Public Service Commission, Robert and Julie Sprague raised concerns that nine potential turbine locations and a meteorological tower within two miles of the runway of their aerial spraying business would affect the safety of takeoffs and landings. The letter said they didn’t learn about the turbine locations until after the public hearing.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires wind farms to have a two-mile setback from public airstrips but has no such rule for private airstrips.

Still, PSC chairman Brian Kalk said he was concerned about the potential safety impacts to the spraying business. The commission accepted the late input from the Spragues – as well as additional concerns raised late by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission – and offered to quickly schedule another hearing, but Geronimo Energy ultimately decided to delete the nine sites from its layout of 136 potential turbine locations.

"We preferred to move it forward,” Engelking said. “I think given where the Public Service Commission was, additional hearings may not have gotten us a better outcome.”

Robert Sprague said Wednesday he’s pleased with the approved site plan.

“My family is really happy for my safety, and it definitely satisfies our concerns,” he said.

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Mike Nowatzki
Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.
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