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Other views: Power of wind limitless

Last fall, the community of Edgeley, N.D., welcomed more than 40 new neighbors to live in its backyard. These weren't ordinary neighbors. They were tall, very sharp and always on the go. Those new neighbors are the 230-foot wind turbines construc...

Last fall, the community of Edgeley, N.D., welcomed more than 40 new neighbors to live in its backyard. These weren't ordinary neighbors. They were tall, very sharp and always on the go. Those new neighbors are the 230-foot wind turbines constructed eight miles west of Edgeley. They are part of two history-making wind farms developed in our state in the past 12 months.

The first is a 40-megawatt, 27-wind tower project pursued jointly by Florida Power and Light Energy and Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The second is a 21-megawatt, 14 wind tower project developed by FPL Energy and OtterTail Power. Together, the two wind farms will generate enough electricity to power about 20,000 homes.

The projects provide a significant economic boost to the region's economy. The turbine towers used at both farms were manufactured in Fargo. These wind turbines and others sprouting up throughout the state are changing North Dakota's economic future.

This change and economic growth is just a glimpse of what our future is becoming.

Wednesday and Thursday I will host my fifth annual conference on wind energy to examine the progress we've made and opportunities and challenges we face to grow our state's wind energy industry. The event will be held at the Ramada Plaza Suites and Convention Center in Fargo.

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The conference includes an exciting line-up of national wind energy experts and developers. Admiral Richard Truly will deliver the keynote address. He's a former Space Shuttle astronaut and formerly headed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He's now the director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver. That's one of the country's premiere laboratories responsible for studying new technologies and state-of-the-art wind turbine designs that can help lower the cost of wind energy.

The event also includes a series of workshops that will provide updates on wind energy projects in the region, discuss small wind opportunities for farmers and ranchers, explore emerging technologies for harnessing and using wind energy, and examine plans to improve the region's transmission capacity. The event's Wind Energy Expo will feature informational exhibits and displays of wind turbine blades, towers and turbine technology from the nation's top wind energy companies and organizations.

The industry is growing rapidly. More than 2,000 megawatts of new wind energy capacity was added to the nation's electricity grid in the last two years. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind farms completed in the United States in just 2003 will generate about $5 million in payments to landowners, create 200 skilled, long-term jobs and decrease carbon dioxide emissions by three million tons. Growing our region's and country's wind energy industry makes both economic and environmental sense.

An important tool for creating that future was the wind energy production tax credit, which expired when those who run the Senate failed to pass the Energy Bill last year. It is urgent that we extend this tax credit. I intend to offer an amendment to extend the wind energy production tax credit at the earliest opportunity. It's important. It will create jobs and new economic opportunity, and it is the right thing to do for America and our emerging wind energy industry.

We've made great progress since I organized my first wind energy conference in 1999. Expanding North Dakota's wind energy industry will help to create new jobs and economic opportunity for all of us. I hope you'll join me at the event to learn more about our state's wind energy industry and how you and your community can participate in its future.

Dorgan was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992. He is chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee.

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