The wind energy bill passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives is an effective compromise, according to Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley.
"It's kind of a meeting in the middle," he said, referring to. "If everybody agrees, and the township and county agree, it (a wind farm) can be built right."
Senate Bill 2313, as originally written and passed by the Senate, created a reclamation and restoration program for abandoned wind farm sites within the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and set minimum setbacks between planned wind turbines and properties that are not part of the wind farm project.
Wind turbines were not allowed within an area of three times the height of the turbine from the border of a quarter section containing an occupied home or 1.1 times the height of a turbine from the unoccupied property of someone not participating in the wind farm project. Brandenburg said this was considered excessive by the wind energy industry and put possible projects in the area in jeopardy. This may have placed wind farm projects planned for Stutsman, Dickey, McIntosh and Emmons counties at risk, he said.
Jay Hesse, project manager for Geronimo Energy, said the political discussion of wind energy was getting friendlier to the industry. Geronimo Energy developed the Courtenay Wind Farm and is in development for another wind farm project in Stutsman County.
"Our understanding is that the House version moves things back to what we're comfortable with," he said. "It's in the ballpark of what we can live with."
The version of the bill approved by the North Dakota House of Representatives on March 21 includes the formation of a reclamation and restoration program but reduces the setback from occupied homes not in the project to three times the height of the turbine from the home.
The setbacks in the House version of the bill are consistent with what has been the regulatory standard in North Dakota since the wind energy industry started.
As a compromise, the House version gives local zoning boards more authority in regulating wind farms in their jurisdictions.
"The amendments in the House language give the townships and counties the power to say no," Brandenburg said.
This would allow areas that oppose wind farms to effectively block them locally without affecting the industry across the state, he said.
Brandenburg said the House version of the bill has been sent back to the Senate for reconsideration.
"We're hoping the Senate concurs (with the House version,)" he said.
Hesse said Geronimo Energy was continuing to work with people and organizations dedicated to seeing wind energy succeed.
"We're optimistic it can be passed in the version from the House," He said, "but until it's passed, it is always at risk."
If the Senate refuses to concur, the bill would then go to a conference committee to reach a compromise between the two versions. No vote has been scheduled in the Senate.