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Talking wind: NextEra Energy hosts open house

Most of the questions about a wind farm proposed to surround Taylor came from those who had little power over it: residents in the town who don’t own the land with turbines on it. Nevertheless, the 87 turbines will be seen from the town — currently with few viewscape obstructions — from virtually every angle.

TAYLOR — Most of the questions about a wind farm proposed to surround Taylor came from those who had little power over it: residents in the town who don’t own the land with turbines on it.

Nevertheless, the 87 turbines will be seen from the town — currently with few viewscape obstructions — from virtually every angle.

NextEra Energy Resources has already secured easements with all the landowners with turbines on their lands for the $250 million project the company wants to finish building by the end of the year.

Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative has agreed to a 30-year agreement for the 150 megawatts of energy generated. The project in all will span more than 39,000 acres, or 61 square miles, in eastern Stark County, according to NextEra’s application with the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Only 80 acres of farmland and pasture will go out of use, project manager Melissa Hochmuth told local residents at an open house for the project at Taylor-Richardton Elementary School on Thursday evening.

Taylor residents questioned why, with the town surrounded by turbines, they weren’t told about the project sooner — landowners in the county who have... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

TAYLOR — Most of the questions about a wind farm proposed to surround Taylor came from those who had little power over it: residents in the town who don’t own the land with turbines on it.

Nevertheless, the 87 turbines will be seen from the town — currently with few viewscape obstructions — from virtually every angle.

NextEra Energy Resources has already secured easements with all the landowners with turbines on their lands for the $250 million project the company wants to finish building by the end of the year.

Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative has agreed to a 30-year agreement for the 150 megawatts of energy generated. The project in all will span more than 39,000 acres, or 61 square miles, in eastern Stark County, according to NextEra’s application with the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Only 80 acres of farmland and pasture will go out of use, project manager Melissa Hochmuth told local residents at an open house for the project at Taylor-Richardton Elementary School on Thursday evening.

Taylor residents questioned why, with the town surrounded by turbines, they weren’t told about the project sooner — landowners in the county who have agreed to easements have been in contact with NextEra for months or years, and have been hosted at a “landowner dinner.”

But Hochmuth said community engagement was the reason behind Thursday’s meeting, and said the company was subtle about the project early on because of competition.

The construction of the farm is planned for June through December, a short time but one of increased truck traffic — 50 per day — as it takes one truck per blade of each turbine. A 33-mile transmission line, which will be permitted as a separate project and for which NextEra is still working on easements, will run south of Interstate 94 westward to Basin Electric’s transmission system south of Belfield.

Gladstone Mayor Kurt Martin brought up his concerns about the turbines affecting nearby land values, and Hochmuth attempted to assuage those concerns — shared by many in the audience — with studies that have shown the turbines have no measurable impact on land value in other areas with wind farms.

Still, landowners pointed out perhaps less calculable ways the project could affect land: how a future landowner wouldn’t have a say over the turbines (easements track with the land), or how landowners won’t be able to build a new house within the 2,000-foot setback the turbines require.

Health questions arose as well, but NextEra expected that and had an expert on hand.

Dr. Melissa Whitfield Aslund said concerns often come up with such projects about issues like noise, shadow flicker and electromagnetic fields, but the risk has been deeply studied, and no concerns have been discovered.

The project complies with North Dakota’s limit of 50 decibels at 100 feet from the turbine — that’s the level of noise in a home without the TV or stereo on.

NextEra has submitted its siting application for the wind farm to the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and the Stark County Planning and Zoning Board will take up the county-level conditional use permit application at an April 2 meeting.

Stark County Commissioner Russ Hoff attended the meeting with an open mind, he said.

Infinity Wind Power’s Sunflower wind farm, in Stark and Morton counties, smoothly secured its county-level approvals about a year ago. Hoff said he didn’t remember the noise or shadow effects being brought up with that project.

NextEra predicts Stark County will make $21 million in tax revenue, and landowners will receive $25 million in payments over the first 30 years of the farm.

NextEra’s “Dickinson Wind Energy Center” won’t be the company’s first wind project, or even its first in the state. The Juno Beach, Fla.-based company already has 11 wind farms in North Dakota, and wind energy is the company’s “bread and butter,” Hochmuth said. “We’re bringing with us an extensive level of expertise.”


Source: http://www.thedickinsonpres...

MAR 19 2015
http://www.windaction.org/posts/42470-talking-wind-nextera-energy-hosts-open-house
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