BISMARCK – North Dakota utility regulators on Wednesday granted a wind developer’s request to continue its application for a $250 million wind farm in Stark County after county commissioners last week denied a permit for the project.
The state Public Service Commission also indefinitely postponed Monday’s public hearing in Dickinson on the project at the request of developer Dickinson Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Wilton, Conn.-based NextEra Energy Resources.
The continuance gives the developer 30 days to provide the PSC with an update on the project, which was proposed in March.
Dickinson Wind wants to erect 87 wind turbines on about 61 square miles of mostly agricultural land between Gladstone and Richardton in eastern Stark County. The city of Taylor would be in the northeastern portion of the project area, and Interstate 94 would bisect the wind farm.
County commissioners voted May 5 to deny a conditional use permit, saying they had received hundreds of phone calls in opposition to the project after the county’s planning and zoning board endorsed it.
Opponents said the project would spoil scenic views and discourage people from visiting the area, while some of the roughly 80 landowners who signed easements for the project said their property rights were disregarded.
PSC Commissioner Brian Kalk stressed that it was the developer, not the PSC, who pushed to continue the matter. He said the PSC doesn’t have the authority or jurisdiction to override the county’s decision to reject the project.
“I think that’s one of the big reasons that they need to go back to the drawing board and make sure they’ve got a project that the county likes before they even bring it to us,” he said.
NextEra Energy spokesman Steve Stengel said the company has been meeting with both supporters and opponents of the project since the county’s vote last week.
“We are looking at modifications that we can make to the turbine layout that would address the concerns that have been raised by the commissioners,” he said.
Two days after the county denied the permit, a group of property owners calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Stark County filed a petition to intervene in the PSC case, arguing that the outcome will affect its members, their communities and their property rights, and that their interests aren’t adequately represented by other parties in the case.
The group contends that the wind farm will impact residential development, property values, wildlife and the environment, and the health and quality of life of county residents.
“Given these concerns, it is anticipated that CCSC’s participation in this proceeding will bring valuable and necessary perspectives to light as the Commission considers Dickinson Wind’s application,” the group said in the petition filed Thursday by Minneapolis attorney Matthew Collins.
Dickinson Wind will have an opportunity to respond to the petition, and an administrative law judge or the PSC will decide whether to grant the group intervener status.
Interveners have a more formal position in PSC proceedings. Like the general public, they can testify under oath at a formal hearing, but they also can cross-examine witnesses and be served with pleadings.
Stengel estimated the 150-megawatt project would provide enough electricity to power more than 41,000 homes.
The PSC also set a public hearing date for a 59-turbine, 100-megawatt wind farm proposed by Rolette Power Development LLC southwest of Rolette in north-central North Dakota. The hearing for the $175 million project will be at 9:30 a.m. June 29 at Memorial Hall in Rolette.