Posted 7/14/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Williams County gave the go-ahead last Wednesday for a wind farm north of Tioga.
“It’s a big win for the project and the landowners,” said Brice Barton, senior development manager for Tradewind Energy, the project developer.
In a 3-2 vote, county commissioners voted to approve a conditional use permit for the project, with a variance that would allow turbines to be placed less than the required 1,400 feet from unoccupied structures.
County Commissioners Dan Kalil and Martin Hanson voted against the permit.
The permit with the variance was approved by all landowners where the variance applied, as well as by the township boards of Tioga, Lindahl, and Sauk Valley.
The project has brought out opponents since Basin Electric first announced last year it had signed an agreement with Tradewind to buy the power produced on the 150 megawatt windfarm. Opponents voiced concerns the variance would set a precedent that would undermine building standards in the county. They were also concerned about noise and how the turbines would spoil the view.
The strongest supporters of the project were the Lindahl township landowners who initiated its development and whose leases they will benefit from.
They cited the diversification of the area’s economy to provide another industry outside of oil, as well as an estimated $700,000 a year in tax revenue to the county.
The county’s approval of the permit does not end the regulatory process that needs to be completed before the project can begin construction. Tradewind must now receive a permit from the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The company submitted its application for the permit immediately after the county’s approval, which was required before the PSC would grant the company a state permit.
Barton said the state process could take a couple months to complete. The PSC must hold public hearings on the permit before making a decision.
Tradewind will now be negotiating agreements with pipeline operators and mineral rights owners for easements and other understandings required before the towers can go up.
If the PSC approves the company’s permit, the project will begin construction in the summer of 2016.
It’s expected to bring 100 or more temporary construction jobs, in addition to 8 to 10 permanent maintenance jobs.