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Foxtail Wind Farm

A group of more than 100 people showed up Thursday for the Foxtail Wind Farm ground breaking ceremony near Merricourt in Dickey County. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., addresses a large group of people Thursday during the Foxtail Wind Farm groundbreaking ceremony. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

NEAR MERRICOURT, N.D.—Dickey County resident Lorraine Pahl said the new wind farm under construction in the area will mean good things for her family and the area. The groundbreaking for the Foxtail Wind Farm Thursday was about 1 mile from land that has been in her family since it was homesteaded more than a century ago.

"This is a positive for the community and one way to keep land in the family," she said, "and the road they'll build up will make it easier to get to the land in the wet years."

Xcel Energy officials gathered with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., crews from Wanzek Construction and local residents for a symbolic groundbreaking. Foxtail Wind Farm will include 75 turbines with 150 megawatts of generating capacity.

Crews are improving roads in the area now and will construct concrete foundations through this fall. Tower construction and turbine installation are planned for next summer.

The project is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2019. Preliminary cost estimates for the project are about $276 million.

Heitkamp said early North Dakota residents used windmills to pump water and commended the people of the area for advancing what she called the "second phase of wind power for our region and the nation."

"You did a lot of promotion to bring this project here," she said. "You have an amazing resource. You are fortunate to live in the most beautiful place in the world but you have to make a living."

Heitkamp said legislation she worked on set a five-year plan for production tax credits rather than an annual renewal process that has given the wind energy industry a more stable fiscal environment.

"We thank Xcel Energy for continuing to invest in rural America," she said.

Mark Nesbit, North Dakota principal manager for Xcel Energy, said wind energy is good for the company and its customers.

"Wind is key to keeping our costs down and raising the value of the stock," he said.

John Schneider, director of economic development and finance for the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said the project will turn wind into an agricultural commodity. The project's 75 turbines are expected to produce enough electricity for 80,000 homes and provide $20 million in local tax revenue for the governments of the area and $30 million in land payments to the property owners over the 20-year life of the project.

Beth Soholt, executive director of Wind on the Wires, a wind energy advocacy group, commended the local landowners for allowing their land to do "double duty" producing crops on the ground and energy from the wind above.

"Wind is a drought and storm resistant cash crop," she said, referring to the payments farmers receive. "Wind is smart for North Dakota and smart for America."

The Foxtail Wind Farm location is between the Tatanka Wind Farm near Forbes and south of the Wind Energy Center in the Kulm and Edgeley area.

Steve Anderson, manager of Hometown Credit Union in Kulm, attended the groundbreaking ceremony because wind energy has been beneficial to the Kulm area.

"It's a good thing," he said. "It brings a lot of jobs and dollars to the community."

Tami Kramlich, superintendent of Kulm Public School, thanked Xcel Energy for a grant it had made to Kulm school for a science, technology, engineering and math lab for the school. The lab has been in use this summer as teachers, and some of the students, explore how to use it as a learning tool.

Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said planned expansions in transmission lines will continue to allow the North Dakota wind energy industry to grow.

"It took a lot of good ole boys and good ole girls working together to bring this project to completion," he said. "This thing isn't over."