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Hartland Wind Farm now has 350 landowners signed for 128,000 acres

Nearly 128,000 acres owned by some 350 landowners are signed with Hartland Wind Farm as plans continue for the nation’s largest wind farm, but residents of Ward, Burke and Mountrail counties are not seeing a great deal of activity right now. “We’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” said Craig Swenson, a principal with Hartland Wind Farm.

6/30/10 (Wed)

 

By Caroline Downs
 
Nearly 128,000 acres owned by some 350 landowners are signed with Hartland Wind Farm as plans continue for the nation’s largest wind farm, but residents of Ward, Burke and Mountrail counties are not seeing a great deal of activity right now.
 
“We’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” said Craig Swenson, a principal with Hartland Wind Farm.
 
 Swenson and Curt Johnson, another principal with the project, did have new information to share with landowners, however, when they held a series of meetings in Kenmare, Berthold and Minot at the end of May.
 
One of the messages Johnson wanted landowners to hear addressed the development of both wind and oil resources on the same property. Several landowners involved with Hartland Wind Farm had questions about the compatibility of the two processes.
 
“There’s no restriction on oil development by the development of a wind energy farm,” Johnson said. “Wind actually advances oil and coal development beyond where it is. Our project has caused legislators and the state administration to make decisions to build more transmission lines, which will enhance other energy programs.”
 
He reiterated North Dakota Governor John Hoeven’s goals for North Dakota to be a national leader in energy production. “I personally believe North Dakota can be the number one energy export state in the Union,” said Johnson.
 
Johnson noted he had spoken with representatives from oil companies that have also established a presence in northwestern North Dakota, and no major conflicts were predicted between the two types of energy projects. Johnson referred to the option agreement offered to landowners by Hartland Wind Farm, as well as the new, sample certificate of survey he and Swenson were reviewing with landowners.
 
“The opportunity to develop oil and gas is not limited in any way, shape or form,” said Johnson. “All we ask is that any oil well on your property is 200 feet away from a turbine to protect the integrity of the foundation. And you can farm up to the base of the turbine.”
 
Each certificate of survey will outline the specifications for any construction or land use by Hartland Wind Farm. “We can only do what this piece of paper says,” Johnson explained. “Everything is negotiable on this thing.”
 
He said that once the information in each certificate of survey was satisfactory to the landowners involved with that property, the certificate could be recorded and permits requested. Members of the audience asked about the depth of underground cabling and power lines in their fields and the locations for any new roads needed. “You tell us where you want that road on your place,” said Johnson. “You’re in control of this process with the certificate of survey.”
 
He also answered questions about the relationship between the option agreement and the certificate of survey. “Signing the option agreement doesn’t compel you to sign the certificate of survey,” he said. “The option agreement doesn’t guarantee a turbine on your land, and it doesn’t guarantee the landowner will allow a turbine.”
 
He continued, “The certificate of survey will define that, and the landowner has total control with a signature.”
 
Larger turbines needed
With nearly three years of wind data collected by Hartland Wind Farm, one element of the project that may change is the type of turbine erected. Originally, the plans called for 1.5 MW GE turbines. Data recorded specifically from the Missouri Coteau region in North Dakota indicate the wind strength and velocity could place undue stress on turbines of that size.
 
“We’ll let the engineers make those decisions,” said Johnson. “That 1.5 megawatt machine is so reliable, but now we’re having to review other options The kind of machine we go with dictates where everything goes. GE wouldn’t warrant the performance of those smaller turbines in this area, because the wind resource is greater.”
 
On the other hand, the wind data impressed one of the project’s financing banks, which has experience with other wind energy farms. “They called me to confirm the numbers,” Johnson said. “They said they’d never seen data like this.”
 
Hartland Wind Farm may choose to use 2 MW turbines. “That means for every 10 GE turbines, we now get 8.5 to 9 of the larger turbines,” said Johnson, “which means fewer turbines, but the landowners with turbines on their property will receive more money, the first two percent out of the total revenue.”
 
Johnson wanted to see turbines sited for the first phase of the project, covering designated acres in the Berthold-Carpio-Donnybrook area, by October. “My objective is to have stakes in the round where we think the turbines are going to go,” he said.
 
That work may not begin by project engineers until after harvest this fall, but landowners involved with Hartland Wind Farm may notice Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson personnel on their property this summer. Johnson explained information would be collected for the project’s Habitat Conservation Plan, a coordinated effort with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “In July and August, hopefully you’ll see KLJ trucks out in the field,” he said.
 
Transmission upgrade
delayed by Congress
Members of the audience expressed concern that the construction of the wind farm tied to the construction of new transmission lines. Johnson agreed, and noted that American Electric Power (AEP) in Ohio remained firm in its commitment to a proposed expansion for the national transmission grid, with a western anchor point near Berthold. “There’s legislation on the calendar, waiting for Senate review,” he said. “We want to see states work together to develop these transmission lines.”
 
He continued, “This isn’t just a good idea. This is something that will happen. Our nation is not secure with the current electrical grid.”
 
Johnson said he called U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan’s office weekly for reports on the progress of SB1462, which contains a subsection directly addressing the siting of interstate electrical transmission facilities. “I’ve been disheartened by the American Power Act, which focuses on nuclear energy and cap and trade,” said Johnson. “Neither of these will be beneficial to North Dakota or the Midwest. We know Dorgan is working with Senators Kerry and Lieberman to include those parts of SB1642 that are important to North Dakota.”
 
One landowner asked about the length of the construction period for the transmission grid, saying he’d heard such a project could take up to 10 years. “They’ll build it one leg at a time, and they’ll start with this leg, which will allow us to begin power generation,” said Johnson. “Looking at our construction time frame for the project and the transmission construction time frame, two years are needed for the construction phase of both. We’re looking at the first quarter of 2013.”
 
He noted the first milestone area for Hartland Wind Farm was comprised of almost 240,000 acres. “We and our engineers have determined we have enough land [within the milestone area] to build 1000 megawatts, if not more,” he said, adding that such a large project appealed to AEP. “The new transmission line will come in about 20 miles southeast of Berthold. Once that’s built, then we can develop anywhere in the areas designated for future Hartland Wind Farm milestones and tie into that transmission line.”
 
Even with the current delays at the federal level, Johnson and his associates are looking at the wind farm’s future, including training for the technicians the project will eventually employ. “Right now at Lake Region State College, they’ve started a new wind tech program,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take a staff of two [technicians] to manage each 10 to 12 turbines, and about 200 techs will be needed for Hartland Wind Farm alone.”
 
Swenson serves on the advisory board for the Lake Region State College wind technician program.
 
Denali Energy of Baxter, MN, in partnership with Montgomery Energy of Texas, has been working on plans for the 2,000 megawatt (MW) Hartland Wind Farm since 2008. Johnson reported that $10 million had been invested in the project to date.
 
Johnson and Swenson recognized landowners may have more questions about aspects of Hartland Wind Farm, especially with little visible evidence of progress. “We know there can be rumors or misconceptions,” said Swenson. “We’re right here for questions or phone calls.”
 
Swenson welcomes those calls at Denali Energy 1-877-557-1031 (toll-free) or 218-824-6802. He can also be reached by email at craigs@denalicompanies.com.