BISMARCK-A North Dakota regulator expects a decision on the final state permit for a wind farm northeast of Valley City to come by the end of the summer.
The Public Service Commission already issued a siting permit to Glacier Ridge Wind Farm, LLC for the first phase of the Barnes County project last year. The commission is now notifying the public on the opportunity to seek a hearing on the second phase, which would include 35 planned wind turbines.
In total, the 300.15-megawatt project includes 87 planned turbines, according to documents posted on the PSC website.
"Because we already did have a public hearing ... we aren't obligated to have a public hearing again," said Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "If somebody requests one, we can consider it."
The deadline for comments and hearing requests is June 23. Fedorchak expects a final decision on Glacier Ridge's permit for the project's second phase by the end of the summer, barring any unforeseen delays.
The original application for the estimated $375 million project was filed last year. It was the largest individual wind farm permit in state history before the company sought to split it into two phases, Fedorchak said, although she noted there are larger North Dakota wind generation facilities that were built in multiple phases.
The Glacier Ridge application prompted discussion among the three-member Public Service Commission last year about whether an increase in wind projects and the loss of baseload coal power generation would harm power grid reliability. The debate continued into this year's legislative session, where lawmakers considered but defeated proposals that critics saw as a moratorium on new wind energy.
In 2016, about 71 percent of North Dakota's net electricity generation came from coal, while 21.5 percent came from wind energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About 5 percent came from conventional hydroelectric power.
There are 1,536 wind turbines in service in North Dakota with a capacity of almost 3,000 megawatts. There have been another roughly 6,000 megawatts proposed, according to information provided by the PSC.
More electricity is generated in North Dakota than is consumed here, according to the EIA.
"We export electricity and have for years long before wind," Fedorchak said.
Public Service Commission Chairman Randy Christmann wrote the sole dissenting opinion on the first phase of Glacier Ridge's project, citing a "sort of mad dash" to meet requirements for federal tax credits for wind projects. But the project's developer, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, said the project has been in development for more than a decade.
"There are multiple ways for a wind project to qualify for 100 percent of the (Production Tax Credit) so long as it's operational by the end of 2020," Matt Boys, development manager for RES, wrote in an email. "The strategy to start construction was the best path forward for Glacier Ridge and its landowner partners."
"Limited construction" began in 2016, Boys said, and RES is aiming for commercial operations to start by the end of 2020. RES is "actively working with potential buyers for the electricity," Boys added.
Christmann said he'd review company information and public comments before making a decision on the second phase of the project.