Wind energy pros and cons

PSC hears testimony on Ruso Wind project

Jill Schramm/MDN Maynard Novlesky, who has land encompassed by the Ruso wind project, looks over maps of the project area at a North Dakota Public Service Commission meeting in Minot Monday.

Dennis Pozarnsky can see the lights of wind farms in two directions from his home near Benedict.

“I already have windmills in my backyard and I really don’t want any more,” Pozarnsky told the North Dakota Public Service Commission at its hearing in Minot Monday on a wind project near Ruso.

If the project goes through, Maynard Novlesky of Minot would host at least one wind turbine on land homesteaded by his grandmother and farmed at one time by his father and himself in Iota Flats Township in southeastern Ward County.

“The good thing I see is the taxable base increase, especially for townships,” he said. “I am in favor of it. I think it would be good for the economy of our area.”

The PSC took hours of testimony, largely from the developer, Ruso Wind Partners, a subsidiary of Southern Power. The company expects to erect up to 60 to 63 turbines over 16,197 acres about 5.7 miles northwest of Ruso and generate up to 205 megawatts. Pending permits, the company has stated, construction is anticipated to begin as early as third quarter of 2019, and the commercial operation is expected to happen at the end of 2020. Estimated project cost is $250 million to $280 million.

Jill Schramm/MDN Public Service Commissioners Brian Kroshus, Randy Christmann and Julie Fedorchak listen to testimony at a wind farm hearing in Minot Monday.

Pozarnsky and his wife, Marie, who live about six miles from the project, provided the only opposition. Marie Pozarnsky listed a number of birds and wildlife that would be adversely affected by more wind turbines.

“Minimizing the impact doesn’t negate the impact. What’s an acceptable impact?” she asked. “It’s destroying the habitat that my family has enjoyed in North Dakota for 125 years.”

Dennis Pozarnsky, an electrical engineer retired from the Air Force, questioned the sustainability of a subsidized wind industry.

“We have a great electrical system – the best in the nation probably. It’s there all the time, every day, every night, and we are tying ourselves to a system that we don’t know when it’s going to be there,” he said of wind. “I see my tax dollars blowing out the window.

“Progress has got to make sense,” he added. “To me, this just doesn’t make sense.”

Commissioner Brian Kroshus acknowledged there are questions surrounding the transformation occurring in energy.

“It’s only fair to ask the question, ‘Are we headed down the right path as far as sustainability and affordability?'” Kroshus said. “We are working within the parameters of the law. The question is, ‘Are they the right parameters.'”

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak addressed Pozarnsky’s concerns about more flashing red lights to note that the company will employ newer technology in which the lights only flash when an aircraft comes in range.

“Red lights, hopefully, will be going away in North Dakota,” she said. “I am hoping in the next three to five years, we will see a lot fewer of those lights.”

The commission also heard from labor unions regarding the employment of local laborers in wind farm construction. The request was for the wind company to file a report indicating how many of its laborers are from the local area, considered to be about a 150-mile radius. It was noted the impact to the local economy is three times greater in the short term and four times greater in the long term when workers are local.

Ruso Wind Partners also is seeking permits for about a 10-mile long, 230-kilovolt transmission line to a new substation in McHenry County. The project would interconnect to the grid via the newly constructed Ruso Wind Switching Station that would be owned and operated by Great River Energy. Estimated cost of the transmission line is $5 million to $7 million.

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