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75-turbine wind farm approved for Tioga

BISMARCK - The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved Wednesday a wind farm north of Tioga, the first wind farm for oil-rich northwest North Dakota that had area residents divided at a recent hearing.

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved Wednesday a wind farm north of Tioga, the first wind farm for oil-rich northwest North Dakota that had area residents divided at a recent hearing.

Commissioners voted 2-0 to approve the siting for the Lindahl Wind Farm Project, which will involve up to 75 wind turbines about 4 miles north of Tioga.

Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., said at a hearing in October the 150-megawatt project would help meet the high demand for electricity in the area driven by oil and gas development.

The project was initiated by landowners who first began studying the idea to develop a wind farm in the area in 2008.

But other area residents who spoke at the public hearing said they oppose adding wind turbines to the landscape that’s already been transformed by oil and gas development.

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Commissioner Randy Christmann said this project received more negative comments than any other wind farm hearing he’s attended.

Christmann complimented the company for positioning wind turbines at least 3,500 feet from landowners who are not participating in the project, exceeding Williams County’s requirement of a 1,400-foot setback.

However, Christmann noted that setback won’t alleviate the concern residents have about light pollution caused by the turbines, which are required to be illuminated at night with red strobe lights.

“If you’re a person who lives in the country and cherishes the dark night sky as a valuable quality of life issue, at 3,900 feet or even 3 or 4 miles, this has a very significant impact,” Christmann said.

The company is considering installing different turbine models that range from 2 megawatts to 3.3 megawatts, said Commissioner Brian Kalk.

“These turbines are getting bigger and bigger, and I think with that comes a lot more efficiency and the capacity factor is going up,” Kalk said.

The commission’s order allows up to 75 wind turbines, but Kalk said it’d be great if the company could install more 3.3-megawatt turbines and affect a smaller footprint.

While the impact to bald eagles was a major consideration in a wind farm the commission recently approved near Rolette, N.D., surveys of the Tioga project area identified no eagle nests within 20 miles, Kalk said.

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Tradewind Energy has said construction on the $248.5 million project is expected to begin in spring of 2016 with completion in December 2016.

Basin Electric, which projects to get 14 percent of its generation capacity from wind by the end of this year, has agreed to purchase the power generated by new Tioga wind farm.

“An advantage to Basin is that this generation will be close to our increasing Bakken oil loads, so it’s good to get a wind resource close to the demand for the electricity,” said Basin spokesman Curt Pearson.

Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak did not attend Wednesday’s meeting due to a family emergency.

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