Apex Clean Energy held an invitation-only meeting for landowners; the company seeks to put about 300 turbines over 30,000 acres in Bowman County.
By BRYCE MARTIN
Pioneer Editor | email@example.com
BOWMAN — About 50 landowners from Bowman County on Jan. 29 heard a Virginia energy company’s plan to erect at least 100 wind turbines in a large area spanning from south of Rhame to Highway 85.
But not all landowners in attendance were convinced that the project should proceed.
The company, Apex Clean Energy headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., wants to establish a wind energy farm across about 25,000 to 30,000 acres, and would annually produce 200 to 300 megawatts of energy.
Bowman County’s current wind farm — owned and operated by MDU Resources, and located several miles west of Rhame along Highway 12 — by comparison has 13 turbines.
Harold Kruger and Scott Koziar, representatives of Apex, held an invitation-only meeting at Bowman Lodge with landowners that are situated within the proposed project’s footprint.
The meeting’s objective was to spark interest in the project; it was largely informational, with time allotted for questions from the landowners.
A YouTube video was shown to the crowd that featured landowners from outside Oklahoma City, Okla., praising a $400 million wind farm that Apex constructed in their area, called Canadian Hills Wind. That farm was subsequently sold to Atlantic Power.
“Letting (the wind) go to waste is tantamount to pouring oil on the ground,” said one of the residents providing testimonial in the video.
Still, a few residents in the audience questioned the company’s methods.
Karen Paulson of Rhame, whose sons own land in the proposed area, first asked why the meeting wasn’t made public as she echoed Kruger and Koziar’s remarks that the farm would inevitably affect the entire county.
Bowman County Emergency Manager Dean Pearson, who was present at the meeting, echoed Paulson’s concern that the meeting wasn’t public, adding that it was “strange.”
Koziar, director of project development for Apex, answered that there would eventually be a more publicized meeting in the future.
Paulson indicated her nervousness that having such a massive wind farm in the county would force people’s utility bills to increase dramatically, but Kruger assured the crowd that would not be the case.
“It’s the people that are stuck with the bill,” Paulson said.
Koziar disagreed, as he explained that any costs would be passed on to the facility’s rate owners, not to public utility users.
Apex would have two markets to sell the generated energy into: A newly constructed transmission line in the county by Basin Electric would allow the energy to be transported to Basin’s customers elsewhere.
Alternatively, MDU has a transmission line nearby that would provide energy to MDU customers.
The effects of wind turbines
There are many proven negative effects of a wind farm, especially concerning nearby livestock.
Wind turbines are a source of infrasound, which may cause a number of physiological effects, such as an increase in cortisol and catecholamine secretion, according to a 2014 study. The impact of infrasound noise, emitted by wind turbines, on the health of geese and other farm animals had not previously been evaluated.
A turbine’s effects on livestock were first studied in a 2014 controlled clinical trial by the Department of Animal Nutrition and Feed Management at the University of Technology and Life Sciences in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The university’s study, “Preliminary studies on the reaction of growing geese to the proximity of wind turbines,” compared the health effects of a wind turbine on the development of two groups of growing geese.
Results found that geese raised within 164 feet of a turbine gained less weight and had a higher concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood than geese at a distance of 1,640 feet.
The decommissioning of a wind farm at the end of its life cycle leads to another uncertainty.
The Pioneer reported in 2014 that the North Dakota Public Service Commission encountered its first case of wind farm decommissioning at which time it established a precedent that requires an energy company to post a bond to cover the expenses of decommissioning that previously would have been left to landowners.
The PSC requires the company whose turbines are on the property owner’s land to issue a guaranty that they would finance the decommission and land restoration process, following guidelines established by the PSC and North Dakota Century Code.
Aside from its obvious negative points, the wind farm could lead to an influx in economic activity in the county, with new jobs being created and royalties to local landowners.
The company would require a large group of landowners to sign contracts for Apex to lease their land for placement of the turbines. In return, the landowners are paid annually.
Royalties could total $100 million over the lifetime of the farm — which was said to be about 25 or more years — based upon previous projects completed by the company.
Koziar suggested that any landowners should obtain counsel from a “big city” attorney before signing any agreements with Apex.
He stressed the plans for the Bowman County wind farm are tentative; the process of obtaining permits from the county and state leading up to construction could take several years.
First, however, the company plans to test wind speed in the proposed area.
To determine the best area for turbine placement, Apex is seeking landowners in the Rhame area that would allow the construction of temporary test turbines on their property. The company would collect data regarding wind speed, frequency and other information to determine if the project would be feasible.
It could be several years until construction on the actual farm would begin, according to Koziar, who indicated the earliest start date would be 2018.
Construction for 100 to 300 turbines would take about one to one-and-a-half construction seasons.