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North Dakota regulators say no to wind farm lighting extension request
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North Dakota regulators say no to wind farm lighting extension request

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wind turbines

Wind turbines stand out against the colorful sky of the setting sun at a wind farm  in the rolling prairie hills a few miles northwest of Crown Butte Lake in Morton County.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday denied a wind farm’s request for an extension to install technology that would keep the lights atop its turbines from blinking bright red all night long.

Avangrid Renewables owns Rugby Wind and sought more time to comply with the state’s law requiring light mitigation technology atop wind farm turbines. The company was interested in putting in a system on the Pierce County wind farm that would dim the lights at night based on visibility conditions, but the technology has not received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Its manufacturer is seeking permission from the FAA, but Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak said approval is unlikely to come in time for Rugby Wind to meet even an extended deadline by the end of 2022. As a result, the wind farm will need to comply with the existing deadline of the end of this year and install a radar-based system that keeps the lights off at night unless an aircraft flies in the vicinity.

The wind farm operator told the PSC the dimming system would be cheaper than the radar system but that due to the uncertainty, it would make an expedited request to a vendor to install the radar-based technology.

The PSC earlier this year approved an extension for one wind farm operated by Montana-Dakota Utilities interested in the dimming technology. But commissioners indicated at the time that they would not necessarily grant every similar request that came their way, and they've learned more about the FAA process since then.

The commission on Wednesday also agreed to delay a hearing slated for later this month on Bowman Wind, a wind farm proposed in southwestern North Dakota. The company is working out lingering issues with a landowner and wanted to resolve that first before the hearing, Fedorchak said.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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