PSC meets on Ellendale wind farmThe Public Service Commission took testimony on the Rough Rider Wind I project during a hearing held here Tuesday. Officials from project developer NextEra, formerly Florida Power and Light, touted the four township area in western Dickey County as ideal for wind energy. The project is slated for construction this summer, if approval is granted.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
ELLENDALE, N.D. — The Public Service Commission took testimony on the Rough Rider Wind I project during a hearing held here Tuesday.
Officials from project developer NextEra, formerly Florida Power and Light, touted the four township area in western Dickey County as ideal for wind energy. The project is slated for construction this summer, if approval is granted.
“This site is superior to any site we’ve explored in North Dakota,” said John DiDonato, executive director of NextEra. “There is also a 230 kilovolt transmission line running through project, so there will be no new above-ground transmission lines.”
The project plans include 116 wind turbines each rated at 1.5 megawatts for roughly 175 MW of generating capacity. Each turbine will stand 262 feet high at the hub and have a rotor diameter, the distance across the circle made by the rotating blades, of 271 feet.
The project area includes 16,100 acres in parts of Spring Valley, Grand Valley, Whitestone and German townships in Dickey County, but the planned locations in Spring Valley may not receive turbines.
“All sites in Spring Valley Township are alternates because of the zoning regulations there,” DiDonato said. “We’d rather not go through that unless we have to.”
DiDonato said alternate sites were included in the plan in case a primary site proved unusable because of soil conditions or the finding of artifacts at the location at the time of construction.
NextEra provided the PSC with the parameters they used in planning the wind farm, which included setbacks of 437 feet, or 1.2 times the total height of the turbine, from any road, railroad or non-participating property. DiDonato said turbines will not be placed any closer than 1,400 feet to any occupied structures.
“The area is remote from human habitation,” he said. “There are only four occupied homes in the project footprint.”
The project drew praise from people within the area.
“We’re excited for this opportunity for Ellendale,” said Monica Peldo, mayor of Ellendale. “NextEra has been a wonderful partner in this project.”
When pressed by Kevin Cramer, chairman of the PSC, for any concerns she might have, Peldo commented on the roads in the area.
“The roads are not in good shape now,” she said. “They may also be a concern after construction.”
Mike Brandenburg, member of the North Dakota House of Representatives from Edgeley and an early proponent of wind energy, also voiced praise for NextEra.
“It’s good for Dickey County and good for the whole area,” he said.
Many of the members of the public testifying before the PSC looked forward to the economic impact the wind farm would bring to the area.
“We’re making about a $310 million investment,” said Josie Hernandez, media relations specialist for NextEra. “The property taxes paid will be nearly $1 million per year and there will be about $600,000 per year in payments to landowners.”
A representative of the aerial-application industry voiced a concern about the meteorological towers used to research the wind resources of an area.
“They are dangerous,” said Eric Klindt, an aerial applicator from Campbell, Minn. “It seems that an aerial applicator will have to die before this is addressed.”
Klindt said the towers are usually constructed at 199 feet, just below the height requiring lighted markers by the Federal Aviation Administration, and are difficult for crop dusters to see.
NextEra asked for an expedited ruling by the PSC.
“The wind turbines to be installed have been purchased and will arrive on site starting in September,” DiDonato said.
If they receive an expedited ruling in their favor, NextEra plans on starting construction in July with the project online in November.
“You’ve waited a long time in Dickey County,” Kramer said. “There have been a few near misses but finally here we are. The commission will make a decision in a few weeks to a month or so.”
If built, Rough Rider Wind I will become the fifth wind power facility owned by NextEra in North Dakota. They also operate the Kulm/Edgeley wind farm, located about 30 miles north of the proposed Rough Rider Wind I project, in LaMoure County. The two projects will likely share some staff with an additional six to seven employees added.
The business of converting North Dakota wind into electricity has been good for NextEra.
The Miami Herald reported on April 28 that FPL Group, the parent corporation of NextEra, saw first quarter profits rise by 46 percent. The Herald article said analysts credited the increase to new wind energy capacity in North Dakota, Iowa and Texas.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com