North Dakota regulators approve wind plans under new rules
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota utility regulators approved land restoration plans for 14 wind energy projects.
NextEra Energy’s plans are the first ones submitted under new Public Service Commission rules, the Bismarck Tribune reported . They require wind companies to submit plans and cost estimates for reclaiming wind projects when the turbines are ready to be decommissioned. The rules were adopted at the direction of state lawmakers and are meant to protect landowners while providing certainty for the wind industry.
“We just want to make sure at the end of the day that we’re taking good care of the environment when any type of energy production facility goes offline and is no longer in use,” Commissioner Brian Kroshus said last month.
Kroshus added that “developers have been very cooperative.”
NextEra said it would cost an average of $125,000 per turbine to restore the land for its North Dakota projects, according to third-party engineering estimates submitted to regulators. Decommissioning the 48 turbines in the Oliver Wind III project in Morton and Oliver counties is expected to cost more than $6.2 million. The cost includes dismantling the towers, removing concrete pedestals, reclaiming access roads and removing underground cables.
“Our commitment is to leave the land in as good or better condition than we found it,” said NextEra spokesman Bryan Garner.
Derrick Braaten, an attorney who represents landowners in cases with wind companies, said he’s impressed with the commission’s progressive rules, but he still urges landowners to request additional bonding in agreements with wind companies because, in his experience, the bonding amount required for energy facilities is rarely enough to restore land.
“We’re so much on the front end of the wind development,” Braaten said. “There’s just a lot of question marks.”
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com