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Wind farm near Rhame gets O.K. from PSC

A 13-turbine, 18.5 megawatt, wind farm will begin to be constructed near Rhame late this year, officials say, after the state public service commission issued an order approving the certificate.

The project, dubbed the "Cedar Hills Wind Project", would be owned by Montana-Dakota Utilities.

Commisioner Kevin Cramer said that 'certificate' signifies that the commission approves of the project, the finances and setup of the project are acceptable, and the public is best served by the project.

"Any utility that is an industry-owned utility like MDU, in order for them to invest in any build out of their facility, they have to get this certificate," Cramer said. "So we issued it for the wind farm."

Due to the small size of the wind farm, it falls beneath the PSC's jurisdiction for citing, Cramer said.

"There is no need for a hearing and all those things we would do if it were, for instance, a 119 megawatt wind farm," Cramer said, "We would be going down to Rhame and holding a hearing and all of that. In this case it's just the certificate."

The Bowman County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional land use permit for the wind farm in January.

Montana-Dakota-Utilities Company spokesperson Mark Hanson said having the PSC issue the order approving the certificate of public convenience and necessity is the last step needed to begin construction.

"Our original plan is that it wouldn't be constructed and be online until late this year," Hanson said. "There is a possibility it could get pushed into 2010."