Napoleon potential site for new wind farm projectThe courtroom of the Logan County Courthouse was filled to capacity with nearly every loose chair in the building pressed into service. More than 90 people attended a hearing of the Public Service Commission regarding a siting application for a wind farm in the area.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Sun
NAPOLEON, N.D. — The courtroom of the Logan County Courthouse was filled to capacity with nearly every loose chair in the building pressed into service. More than 90 people attended a hearing of the Public Service Commission regarding a siting application for a wind farm in the area.
Just Wind LLC. is applying to place 160 turbines generating 386 megawatts of power in a four-township area around Napoleon, a town of about 850 people and the Logan County seat. The project will be built in two stages due to availability of turbines. The first stage includes 104 turbines and will go online in the fall of 2009. The final stage of 56 turbines would go online in the fall of 2010. The total project is estimated to cost $950 million with construction slated to start as early as this fall if PSC approval is finalized.
“South central North Dakota is known for its wind resources,” said Susan Wefald, PSC president. “But this is a large wind farm by any standard in the United States. It is the biggest we’ve been asked to permit.”
Jeff Metzger, president of Just Wind, said the project had grown to its current scale because of local interest.
“We started talking about 27 turbines,” he said. “It went up to 80 and now we’re at 160 which generates the maximum electricity we can feed into the transmission system.”
The project has also drawn 98 local investors, or members, who Metzer said wanted to be a part of the project although they didn’t own land in the area. Many of those members, along with other community leaders, attended the Public Service Commission hearing.
“It has been a learning process,” said Richard Grosz, chair of the Napoleon economic development group. “But I’m not aware of any negatives about this project. It is a way to keep a small community going.”
Much of the testimony revolved around wildlife and its habitat in the area. Of particular concern is the endangered whooping crane. The issue was also raised in a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faxed to the PSC the day of the hearing.
“We have been contracted to do a study on sandhill cranes because they are a surrogate to the whooping crane,” said John Schultz, vice president and senior biologist for Western Plains Biology in Bismarck.
Sandhill cranes and whooping cranes use similar habitat and migration paths but because they are more numerous it is easier to gather data on sandhill cranes, he said. The study will track birds migrating through the area this fall and again next spring.
“It is highly unlikely to see whooping cranes in the project area,” Schultz said. “But that is not to say they won’t pass through in the future.”
Metzger told the commission he planned on filing a Habitat Conservation Plan after all studies regarding wildlife in the area was complete. The HCP would limit the company’s liability in case of an inadvertent death of any endangered species due to the wind farm in the future.
Just Wind was asked by the PSC to furnish several additional pieces of information including the noise of the turbines, distance of turbine sites from power lines, roads and property lines and a final approval from the State Historical Society.
The PSC will issue its final ruling on the siting of the project at a later date.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com