ND regulators advance wind projects
BISMARCK — Federal tax credits continue to boost wind energy development in North Dakota, utility regulators said after advancing four such projects Thursday, Nov. 16.
The three-member Public Service Commission's meeting agenda was dominated by wind energy projects. By a unanimous vote, the commission:
• Issued an amended siting permit requested by EDF Renewable Development for the 150-megawatt Merricourt wind project in Dickey and McIntosh counties. Construction is slated to begin in 2019 and the facility is expected to be in operation by the end of that year, and project ownership will be transferred to Otter Tail Power Co.
• Issued a notice of opportunity for a hearing for Xcel Energy's application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the 150-megawatt Foxtail wind project 20 miles west of Ellendale, N.D. A hearing on that project is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Ellendale's Fireside Restaurant.
• Granted an advanced determination of prudence and an amended certificate of public convenience and necessity requested by Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. to expand the Thunder Spirit Wind project, a 107.5-megawatt project northeast of Hettinger, N.D. The expansion would add 48 megawatts to the project.
• Provided an amended siting permit for Allete Clean Energy's project in Morton and Mercer counties. It requested the ability to install up to 106 megawatts, up from 100 megawatts allowed under a pervious siting permit.
Brian Kroshus, a member of the PSC, said there's "no question" that wind development is being driven by the federal production tax credit. That credit is currently being phased out, but an industry group has raised alarms that congressional tax reform efforts will undermine that incentive and threaten investments in wind projects.
Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak expects the industry will continue to develop renewable energy sources even with less generous tax incentives.
North Dakota's nearly 3,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity and 1,611 turbines are both good for 11th in the country, according to the American Wind Energy Association.