WILLISTON -- County commissioners have voted in favor of a 75-turbine wind farm in northwest North Dakota, signing off on a project that has divided landowners.
Three township boards had approved the project after 30 landowners signed leases for about 13,000 acres of property four miles north of Tioga. The Williams County Commission approved the project Tuesday.
The turbines were predicted to begin generating 150 megawatts of power late next year pending approval from the North Dakota Public Service Commission.
Proponents of the Lindahl Wind Project say they hope the 492-foot turbines will help produce clean energy and diversify the rural economy.
“It’s very rare to get two people to agree on a project, let alone farmers and ranchers,” said Jerol Gohrick, a resident and board supervisor in Lindahl Township who favors the $150 million project and disclosed his financial interest. “These people out there want this.”
The Lindahl Wind Project was spearheaded by Tioga-area landowners who began exploring wind energy in 2010 to feed the growing need of the Bakken power grid. The group executed a power purchase agreement with Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the power supplier for Williams, Mountrail and Burke counties.
Tradewind Energy, Inc., of Kansas, purchased the project in 2014 and has developed it for the global Enel Green Power North America, Inc., of Massachusetts. Lindahl Wind Project has since become a wholly owned subsidiary of EGP.
State Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga, wrote a letter to the commission in support of the project even though the city of Tioga recommended denial.
“This business will provide a renewable energy source in an area of the state where it is needed,” Rust wrote. “I see many benefits and see no reason why oil, natural gas, farming and wind can not coexist in the same environment.”
Commissioners Dan Kalil and Martin Hanson, who voted in opposition in the 3-2 outcome, questioned the project’s request for a conditional use permit on agricultural land and two separate variance requests from setback requirements.
Commissioners David Montgomery, Barry Ramberg and Wayne Aberle voted in favor of the project that would benefit landowners, they said, and provide tax revenue for state and local governments.
Opposing landowners, most often those outside the project, argued that county property had been busy enough since the oil and gas boom.
“We don’t need economic development. We don’t need more,” said Corrie Redmond, of Tioga, who added that Lindahl Township has 285 wells. “We should be thankful to God for what we’ve got.”
Other objections hinged on noise complaints, safety concerns and the ruin of views from their county farms and ranches.
“You need to stop and think about the next generation,” said Jody Dean Bergstrom, who told commissioners she enjoyed riding horses with her children on her surrounding land. “All I’m going to see is turbines and flashing lights.”