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PSC approves wind farm north of Tioga

 

Posted 12/08/15 (Tue)

PSC approves wind farm north of Tioga

By Kevin Killough
Tioga will have a wind farm.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission last week voted 2-0 to approve siting of the Lindahl Wind Farm.
The permit limits the number of turbines to 75 with no more than 150 megawatts produced. The limits on power generation will limit the size of the nacelle, which sits atop the tower and houses the generator. 
The size of the nacelle also affects the length of the blades.
Commissioner Brian Kalk noted this limitation addresses an important concern with siting  wind farms. 
By stipulating the limitation on the size and number of turbines, Kalk said he felt more comfortable with the approval.
“That’s our way . . . of putting some brackets around this,” Kalk said.
Addressing concerns
Kalk also noted the developer, Tradewind Energy of Kansas, has taken steps to address some of the concerns area residents had about the project. 
The Tioga Commission voted in February not to recommend county approval of the project, but the commission also noted the city has no jurisdiction over the project location.
Despite this, the company moved the project footprint to four miles north of town, increasing the distance by two miles over the original site plan.
“I think it was a good response,” Kalk said.
In his discussion on the decision to approve, Commissioner Randy Christmann said the public hearing the PSC held on the project in October drew more negative comments from local residents than any other he’s been involved with. About 30 landowners within the project boundaries initiated the development and are leasing their property where the turbines will be built.  
Christmann said he is pleased the company will place turbines no closer than 3,900 feet from any non-participating residences, which is 2,500 feet more than required by county setbacks.
“I think there’s a clear distinction between the landowner who signs an agreement and welcomes them onto their property, as opposed to the landowner who has to live out there and wishes this wasn’t occurring,” he said.
Christmann said this point is not a factor in determining siting approval. The distance would help mitigate concerns over “shadow flicker” and noise, but will not help address the concerns over “light pollution,” stemming from the red strobe lights on the tower nacelles. 
“Keeping the night sky dark is a quality of life thing,” Christmann said. 
Kalk also said the company has demonstrated there will be no significant impacts to wildlife and no bald eagle nests were located within the project boundaries. 
What’s next? 
Dallas Lalim, who helped coordinate the participating landowners, said he is pleased with the decision.
In reference to that group, Lalim said, “I think all of us think this is a really good thing for the landowners and for the community.”
Brice Barton, senior development manager with Tradewind Energy said he is also happy with the approval.
“We’re excited about the project. This is a sigh of relief,” he said. 
The company still needs to get a permit from the Williams County Planning and Zoning Department for the turbine structures and associated buildings. Barton said the company will not need to go through the commission for those approvals. 
The company is also developing road maintenance agreements with the county and townships in an effort to minimize impacts when construction begins. This will include where to locate “track-out pads,” which truckers use to clear off mud before pulling onto paved highways. 
Wind boom
Currently, Barton said they are shooting to begin construction in late May, with completion by the end of the year. 
Altogether, he said the project construction will employ  500 to 600 workers. 
During the construction, there will be about 200 workers on the site at any one time. 
Delivery of the components is going to require some strategy. Each nacelle is about the size of a long school bus, and the blades are hundreds of feet long. 
Tradewinds buys the components delivered, so the manufacturer will work with the developer and contractor to determine how to get the pieces of the 75 turbines to the site locations.
“It’s a collaborative process,” Barton said. 
Wherever possible, much of it will probably come by rail and then be moved to the site by truck.
“Something that huge and that long is cheaper to move by rail,” Barton said. 
Those that come in by truck will probably come by way of U.S. 2 and up N.D. 40, but he said it is all speculation at this point. 
This might not be the last effort the company makes in the state.
Barton said the initial measurements the company took with meteorological towers installed last year are showing some of the best wind resources the company has ever seen. 
“We’re a development company. We love the wind resource in North Dakota, and we’re always looking for new sites,” he said.
They’re not the only wind development company eyeing the Bakken. 
On Thursday, the Williams County Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a hearing for a conditional use permit for more meteorological towers.
Homestead Wind LLC is the applicant for that permit, and the location is Bonetrail Township northwest of Williston. 
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak was absent from the PSC meeting due to a family emergency.