ROLLA A Canadian-owned wind farm in Rolette County could get a final stamp of approval from the North Dakota Public Service Commission soon, said George Youngerman, director of the Rolla Job Development Authority.
The Winnipeg-based Sequoia Energy is developing the 150-megawatt Border Winds Wind Energy Project, which will include 66 wind turbines north and east of Rolla. Getting to this point has taken a lot of preparation. Earlier steps included wind speed data collected from a metering tower in the county, meeting zoning and planning board conditions, getting long-term leases signed with private property owners, paying attention given to environmental concerns and hosting public meetings. The Rolla Job Development Authority was the main agency leading the development, with county and city boards also involved in the planning process.
If all goes as planned, construction is scheduled to start sometime in 2010. Youngerman said the wind energy project should give the area a strong economic boost, both because of property taxes that will be paid to the county and employment opportunities.
Submitted Photo --
Connie Hileman, who works in the Rolla Public Library, and volunteer Lois Menard work on computers Monday in the Rolla Library. The library has received a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to update its technology.
The construction could bring up to 200 workers to the area. Youngerman said the additional personnel will be a boon to bars, restaurants, and hotels in Rolla and surrounding towns. Youngerman said there will also be 10 to 15 permanent, well-paid positions available when the project is finished. Youngerman has been in close contact with Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, which launched a new wind energy technician program this past fall. Erin Wood, director of marketing and communications for Lake Region State College, said students can complete either a one-year certificate program or a two-year associate degree in the field. The certificate program is offered through on-campus coursework, but students who complete the certificate can take online courses to complete an associate degree, said Wood.
Lake Region estimates there will be a need for at least 180 wind energy technicians by 2012 to maintain what could be as many as 2,000 wind turbines in North Dakota by that time, including those planned for the Border Winds project. Mike Bower, president of Lake Region State College, said there are about 16 people enrolled in the program this fall and they are receiving applications for admission to the program next year. There's also considerable wind energy industry growth in surrounding states as well as in this part of North Dakota. Bower said his program needs more instructors for a program that has attracted strong interest.
"It's a nice way to jumpstart the economic vitality (in some of these regions)," said Wood.
Youngerman said he's also exploring other industries that might be compatible with the wind farm, such as hydrogen or nitrate development, though those are still very much in the conceptual stage.
This is just one of the projects that Youngerman has worked on to encourage economic growth and services that will benefit the public.
Youngerman said Rolette County has benefited from the increased population growth on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, which helps businesses in surrounding towns as well as in Belcourt.
Youngerman has also worked with the Rolla Public Library, which recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help purchase new technology. Library officials sought help in getting required local funding for the grant from the Rolla sales tax committee and a community endowment fund which provides grants for projects of public benefit. The library needed to raise $3,250 in matching dollars to receive $9,750 for the first year of the grant, which will help purchase more up to date computers and provide for technical support. The second year of the grant requires that the local community raise $6,500 to obtain $6,500 from the foundation, Youngerman said.
Youngerman said the technology offered by the library is a valuable asset to the community. People traveling on business use the library computers, as do people who may not have their own home computers. Library officials hope that the library computers could be used to provide training for businesses or computer classes for the public.
"There are people who are in there every day using the computers," said Youngerman. "It's a very important service to the region."
Grants are needed for the library to serve the community as the library board wants to, since funding from the city and Friends of the Rolla Library group are small.
Grants also help other organizations provide more than basic services.
Youngerman always is on the lookout for federal grants that might help the community purchase something it badly needs, such as a new police car, or might make it more attractive, such as a new recreational vehicle park or a skateboard park for youngsters. Youngerman said an RV park would boost tourism and a skateboard park would provide activities for young people in the community.
His office also assists other organizations applying for grants by looking over grant applications to make sure they are answering the questions asked and are detailed enough.