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N.D. ranks 3rd in wind energy potential

North Dakota ranks third -- behind only Kansas and Texas -- in real potential for wind energy development, according to a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization.

North Dakota ranks third -- behind only Kansas and Texas -- in real potential for wind energy development, according to a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization.

"North Dakota is often advertised as the 'Saudi Arabia of wind,' but if these resources are not developed at a competitive rate, the state could miss the economic boon present in its natural environment," said Katharine Mosehauer, Great Plains field organizer for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Minnesota ranked seventh for wind potential in the Washington, D.C., based nonprofit group's report.

"North Dakota is too dependent on dirty energy sources," the report said, noting that in 2000, coal accounted for 93 percent of the state's energy mix.

North Dakota normally ranks first or second in wind potential studies. It ranks third in this new report only because of limitations associated with power transmission, Mosehauer said.

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"The wind blows everywhere in North Dakota, as you know," North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said. "The issue is transmission capacity. That is the key and it's very costly."

North Dakota has income, sales and property tax relief programs in place for wind energy development, he said.

Mosehauer's group advocates state and national "Wind Vision 2020" standards, requiring 20 percent of our electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2020. It also endorses the expansion and extension of the nation's production tax credit for builders of renewable energy projects for at least five years.

"The cost of wind energy is coming down, but there's still a need for the credits," said Jon Wanzek, executive vice president for Wanzek Construction of Fargo.

Wanzek in February was awarded a contract from Dakota I Power Partners for construction of 13 towers for a 19.5-megawatt wind energy farm in Dickey County.

Work begins in June near Forbes.

Wanzek is also bidding on a contract for erection of 14 towers near Kulm, N.D. FPL (Florida Power & Light) Energy and Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck are behind that project, which includes 13 additional towers in South Dakota.

Otter Tail Power Co., a subsidiary of Otter Tail Co., just last week said it would purchase 21 megawatts of energy generated by another 14 wind energy towers being built by FPL Energy adjacent to the Kulm-area project.

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Otter Tail Co. also owns West Fargo's DMI Industries, a national leader in wind tower manufacturing.

Joe Richardson, president of Harnessing Dakota Wind, said wind energy could have a tremendous economic impact on the state. His organization, founded and funded by the North and South Dakota Farm Bureaus, supports wind development on behalf of farmers and ranchers.

According to Richardson, realization of the "Wind Vision 2020" objective would mean $6 billion in statewide capital expenditures; 3,860 new jobs, many in rural areas of the state; $53 million in annual tax receipts; and $22.8 million in annual lease payments to landowners.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560

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