The Adams County Courthouse was almost full as residents attended a public hearing to let their feelings be known to the zoning commission Monday evening about the possibility of a wind farm being built in the county.
Posted August 1, 2013
By JAMIE SPAINHOWER
The wind blows in North Dakota, seemingly all of the time.
But is it enough to sustain a proposed wind farm in Adams County?
Dan Albano of Thunder Spirit Wind explained the proposal to the mostly full courtroom Monday night.
“We started looking in Hettinger in 2006 talking with landowners and studying the wind,” he said. As in most new projects of this sort, producing the electricity is not the problem, but the transmission of the power is – if there is enough capacity available on existing transmission lines and the cost to upgrade the existing or build new lines.
“This is one of the reasons this area is so attractive,” he said. “One of the greatest attributes is close to transmission lines and substations. We can do a 150 mega-watt project for just over $1 million. It’s not unusual for $20 million for same project. We have great wind and a solid and enthusiastic group of landowners. We think it’s a great place to build for those reasons.”
And though there is plenty of wind, as in all wind farms, there will need to be fossil fuel back up in place.
The scope of the project would include up to 75 turbines in the Duck Creek Township, and a few other parcels. The life of the wind farm is estimated at 25 years, and would bring approximately $650,000 annually to the county tax base.
The landowners could see $800,000 in lease payments, and during the initial construction phase provide about 50 jobs over six months.
“After everything is built and running, there will be half a dozen full time jobs,” said Albano. That doesn’t unduly put stress and pressure on the existing infrastructure as the counties to the north have seen with the oil, and large influx of people working the fields.
The electricity also has to be sold – and Albano said they are hopeful in finding a long-term power purchase agreement with a utilities company.
In order to build the wind farm, the roads would have to be widened to accommodate the 36 feet needed to move the huge blades. Albano assured the assembly they will widen and maintain the roads they will use in the construction and maintenance of the project,
The Public Service Commission also has to give the green light for the project to move forward, as does the FAA.
“There is nothing in the natural area currently that will affect flight plans, or bird migrations paths or habitat – such as a wetlands area – that would be affected by the towers,” he said. A study has been done by a third party on the wildlife in the area and the effects the project would have.
Plans have been submitted to the FAA but no response as yet, though he said one is expected soon.
However, not everyone present was enthusiastic about the project.
Downsides of the giant turbines include “flicker” which is when the sunshine goes through the blades, noise and some consider them to be eyesores, or unattractive to the countryside.
Many of those who spoke felt it would decrease the property value of the land and houses affected, and the proposed locations and the setback from the occupied homes won’t be adequate.
In addition to the visual and audio resident Nancy Secrest said there have been studies showing health problems related to wind farms, such as migraines, headaches and depression.
“I moved to the country to hear birds sing, not machines,” she said.
Some of those who commented felt there needs to be more time and information available for the public to know exactly how the process will work.
Larry Slater is in favor, saying the cattle will like the shade and still be able to graze in the area.
Dan Christman is also in favor of the project, looking at some of the positive effects of the extra income to the county.
“Why turn away money to help with the roads, the school and other things the county can use help on?” he asked. “As for the noise – it’s like the trains. You can hear the trains miles away at 2 a.m., but you get used to it,” he said.
The general feeling wasn’t so much against the project, just “not in my backyard.” And the community wanted more information, and felt the commission needed more information to make a completely informed decision.
The Zoning Board and Commission is a recommending board – it will make a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will have the final say.
Another meeting is being planned for sometime in the next few weeks.