Citizens and officials were held up in the Memorial Hall in New England for the Brady Wind II project by NextEra Energy Resources.
By COLE BENZ
The North Dakota Public Service Commission heard hours of testimony from experts and community members on June 7 in New England in regards to the proposed Brady Wind II project by NextEra Energy Resources.
If the commission renders an approval for the certificate for site compatibility, the $250 million dollar project will be built in northern Hettinger County with some parts spilling over into southern Stark County.
Commissioners heard sworn testimony from experts on behalf of NextEra Energy. Those experts testified on subjects ranging from health concerns to environmental issues, including the preservation of the natural habitat of bald and golden eagles.
Sprinkled in between expert testimony was public comment, and similar to the Hettinger County Commissioner’s special meeting in April, both supporters and detractors were given an opportunity to speak. But this time it became a matter of public record.
One of the more emotional testimonies came from rural New England resident Lea Dorner, who said her family isn’t sure if they can live around the wind turbines.
Dan Gardner, also of New England, was worried that the commissioners would be making their decision based on politics, and not on the economic efficiency of wind energy.
One resident, Michael Madler, said that after he initially agreed to participate in the wind farm, reversed his decision after some negative dealings with the company.
But those supporting the project said they were looking towards the future. Leon Monke, whose family’s land will house six turbines, said they were doing it as a family to invest in the future.
Another supporter compared the situation to the women’s prison at the end of Main Street, saying that at the time people said they didn’t want it, but that now nobody even notices their presence.
Between the public comments, expert testimony and commissioner’s comments and questions, NextEra did discuss curtailing a possible annoyance the towers can cause at night.
Light pollution caused by constant blinking, red warning lights can be a big concern for some people. But a recent approval by the FAA may have solved this issue. Aircraft Detection Light System (ADLS) uses radar to activate the lights only when an aircraft is flying near by, as opposed to the constant blinking seen on the towers today. And NextEra is preparing their wind farms for this application.
“It’s our intent is to do this concurrently with construction,” Hochmuth said. “When you put the lights on, they are already compatible with the radar system.”
PSC Chairman Julie Fedorchak lauded the new system, and said that it will benefit wind energy for the entire state.
“I think it’s really the right move and it’s a good move for wind development in general and it’s [a] great move for wind in North Dakota.” Fedorchak said.
Though Fedorchak commended the company for the efforts, she wondered why it would take the company an estimated two years to install, especially when the FAA has already given their approval.
Hochmuth said that it is very early in the process for ADLS, and that there are very few vendors offering the system, but reiterated that the equipment will be in place when they can secure the radar portion.
“We want to get it installed and working, as soon as we can, and that’s our intent as well, we know it,” Hochmuth said.
The commissioners commended NextEra Energy multiple times for how prepared they were as compared to the Brady I public hearing.
“It’ll be easier deliberation on Brady II that it was on Brady I, because the company had a very good idea of the questions we were going to ask for Brady II,” Commissioner Brian Kalk said. “Their case was presented much more efficiently.”
He said that following the Brady I hearing the company needed to make multiple late filings, which held up the process. Kalk believes that this time the commissioners have all the information they would need to decide.
A decision has not been rendered yet in the Brady I case.
Now the commission must deliberate during scheduled work sessions to determine whether or not to approve the 72-turbine wind farm that’s expected to generate up to 150 megawatts of power. The work session has been scheduled for June 21 at 11 a.m. CST and can be viewed online. Kalk said he expects a decision could come in July.
“The information that I need to make a decision is all there, I just want to go through it, and then render a decision,” Kalk said.
After the commissioners have discussed everything they need to talk about during the work sessions, an order will be filed and it will be on one of the commission meeting agendas. The decision will then go up for a vote during the meeting.
“Procedurally it will show up on one of our agendas to vote on,” Kalk said.
Hochmuth previously told The Herald that if they acquired all of the necessary approvals, they hope to begin construction sometime this summer.