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Wind energy project in north-central N.D. gets final go-ahead

BISMARCK – A wind energy project that’s been in the works since 2008 won final approval Wednesday from the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

The three-member panel voted unanimously to grant an order of public convenience and necessity for the Border Winds project, which will consist of 66 wind turbines north of Rolla, N.D., near the U.S.-Canada border.

“There’s now an obligation for the company to build this,” PSC chairman Brian Kalk said.

Sequoia Energy US Inc. originally filed a letter of intent in September 2008 to build a $300 million, 150-megawatt project on 122 square miles of land in Rolette and Towner counties.

The PSC approved the siting in May 2011, but the company struggled to find a buyer for the project because of transmission access and other issues, Kalk said.

In April, Sequoia Energy sold the project to Border Winds Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of RES Americas, a major developer of renewable energy systems with an office in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Co., which does business as Xcel Energy, has agreed to buy the project when it’s completed.

The PSC had previously allowed construction to start on the project. Work was slated to begin in June, staff said.

An updated project cost wasn’t available Wednesday because of trade secret protections, but Kalk noted that wind turbine prices have fallen significantly since 2008. Jerry Lein, staff engineer for the PSC, said a “couple hundred million” dollars is a good, rough estimate of the cost.

The commission’s primary contact person for Border Winds couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.