January 1, 2009

What about wind?

What about wind?

By STU MERRY

If it’s windy, it must be North Dakota. While McLean County has been at the forefront in hydropower, coal generated power, and on the cusp of development in the oil rich Bakken Formation in the western part of the county, another form of energy – greener, cleaner energy -- is gaining a foothold on the county’s perimeter. It’s wind.

There are a number of wind farms sprouting up across the state, and a number of wind farms encircle McLean County. There are wind turbines to the north in Ward County, to the south in Burleigh County, and along the west bank of the Missouri River in Mercer County – all are within clear view from the county’s borders. But at the present time there are no wind towers rising from the McLean County countryside. Could that soon change?

There are rumors that a proposed wind farm in southern Ward County could stretch into northeastern McLean County between the communities of Benedict and Butte. Basin Electric Cooperative would own the farm. The facility will be the largest cooperative owned and operated wind project in the United States.

If the plan comes to fruition, PrairieWinds ND 1 will be located 15 miles south of Minot and consist of 77 turbines generating 115.5 megawatts of energy. It will combine forces with the Minot Wind II site, 14 miles south of Minot, which consists of three turbines producing 4.5 megawatts of electricity. The new project carries an estimated cost of $240 million and is expected to be complete in late 2009 or early 2010.

Ron Rebenitsch, PE, manager of alternative technologies with Basin Electric Cooperative in Bismarck, said there are a number of developers looking at many sites to establish wind farms in North Dakota.

He said he thinks the extreme northern McLean County talk might be due to another developer exploring possible sites and probably leasing wind rights, which, he adds is a common occurrence.

"Sometimes an individual or company will try to lease up an area, then sell the assembled area to a developer that has the financing, turbines and market to actually build a wind project," he explained. "Unfortunately, that sometimes causes confusion, and could make it difficult for another developer and the landowners."


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