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Xcel building $200 million Foxtail Wind project in southeast North Dakota

FARGO -- Xcel Energy broke ground on the 150-megawatt Foxtail Wind project in southeastern North Dakota, which will have the capacity to provide electricity for 80,000 homes.

The groundbreaking ceremony, on Thursday, Aug. 9, marked the start of a project that is part of a push by Xcel to grow its wind generation by 1,850 megawatts, which represents a 70-percent expansion of its wind portfolio.

Foxtail is located near Ellendale, which is 144 miles southwest of Fargo, and will sprawl over 35,000 acres, 99 percent of which will remain available for farming, according to Xcel.

The new wind farm will feature 75 turbines, each capable of generating up to two megawatts of electricity, that have a capacity that is double that of turbines when Xcel built its first North Dakota wind farm a dozen years ago, said Mark Nisbet, Xcel’s principal manager in North Dakota.

The turbines are about 15 percent larger than just a few years ago, with their spinning hubs at a height of 275 feet -- by comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall -- and each of the three turbine blades is 216 feet long.

The larger turbines and refinement in blade design are increasing wind farm capacity, a measure of the actual amount of energy produced as a percentage of a plant’s maximum output.

Newer wind farms have capacity factors above 40 percent, on average. In North Dakota, wind farms produced almost 46 percent, ranking first in the country, according to the American Wind Energy Association, an industry group.

Xcel expects capital costs for the Foxtail Wind project of about $200 million, which will bring Xcel’s wind energy investment in North Dakota to about $1 billion, Nisbet said.

“We’re investing in North Dakota with Foxtail Wind and other projects that will provide millions of dollars in local lease payments and property taxes and deliver clean energy or our customers,” Chris Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said in a statement. “Xcel Energy is a national leader in wind energy, and this is a winning strategy for the customers and communities we serve.”

Local landowners will receive $30 million in lease payments over the next 30 years, and local governments will receive $20 million in property taxes, according to Xcel.

Wind energy has allowed Xcel to provide electricity to its customers at costs that are below the rate of inflation, Nisbet said.

Construction on Foxtail Wind, which started earlier this summer, will involve installation of concrete foundations for the turbines this summer. The turbines and blades will be erected next year, and the wind farm will begin operating late next year.

Wanzek Construction, based in West Fargo, is building the project, which will employ about 100 construction workers. About 10 employees will maintain and operate the wind farm.

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