N.D. Public Service Commission Surprised by Wind Farm Opposition

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The Public Service Commission was surprised by the amount of opposition at yesterday's wind farm hearing in Stark County.

The meeting lasted 15 hours, with Next Era Energy testifying in favor of the facility.

Then the Concerned Citizens of Stark County spoke against the proposal, followed by more public comment.

Wind Energy isn't new to North Dakota. It's been around for about 10 years.

"We need the power," said John Warren. Warren was just one of two dozen people who voiced opinions about the 87 turbine Brady Wind Farm.

Commissioner Brian Kalk says during his 8 years on the PSC he's never seen interest in a wind farm project like he saw during Wednesday's meeting in Dickinson.

"Every energy source has it's pros and cons and I think for a long time nobody really talked about the negatives of wind farms, but we are seeing a lot more organized opposition to the wind farms," said Public Service Commissioner, Brian Kalk.

The meeting lasted all day and into the night with both sides presenting reasons why the project should or should not be built.

"Make sure that our ordinances and the long term ordinances are appropriate to all citizens of Stark County," said Concerned Citizens of Stark County spokesperson, Tom Riechert.

The Concerned Citizens of Stark County say set backs for the wind farm are not far enough away from buildings or property lines. One family testified with concerns about the proximity of the towers to their land and NextEra agreed to relocate turbines.

"This is a big chunk of people that you are trying to put in the project area, that aren't needed, looks like to me," said Kalk.

"We establish a project boundary for study purposes. We haven't even finished all our discussions for the land owners. We are just trying to designate what area we think we can possible use," said NextEra Energy Director, Jason Utton.

This project will cost $250 million. Proponents say it will return $22 million to Stark County and contribute $8.5 million to New England School District.

It will take another two months for a final decision on the project to be made. If approved, this will be the first wind farm in Stark County.

Kalk says the PSC has received an application for a new wind farm project that would be located south of New England.