Once Communities Embrace Wind, It's Time to Focus on Overcoming Barriers

Oct. 1, 2009

Audio with Jay Haley, Partner with EAPC Architects Engineers (MP3 2.6 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:49.

It took time and an extensive grassroots campaign to get the people of North Dakota and the state's legislators on board with wind energy development but once the first wind farm was built, Jay Haley, a partner with EAPC Architects Engineers, says the interest in wind reached a fever pitch.

"We had communities all over the state forming wind development committees and we had politicians that were clamoring to lead the parade. Wind energy started showing up as a major component in the political campaign platforms at the time."

What's more, Haley says an electric cooperative once somewhat resistant to wind embraced a corporate renewable energy goal — declaring that by 2010 — 10 percent of the energy it produces will come from renewable resources. He says the cooperative is Basin Electric, which was involved in purchasing the output from that first wind farm.

"And I suspect that from the experience that they gained through that project that they were better able to see how wind would fit into their long-term plans. But they also had the sort of internal expertise that was needed to build on their own the next wind farm themselves. I think they also heard loud and clear from their co-op members that they wanted more wind energy. And I think the pressure coming from those members was a direct result of all the educational process and the meetings from the grassroots campaign. I mean, most of those co-op members live in these rural areas that really need the economic development."

According to Haley, there's also been a push to find ways to relieve the transmission constraints that impede large-scale wind development in the state and people are looking for ways to regulate and control wind development. He says both transmission and regulation are issues that must be handled carefully if North Dakota is to achieve its full wind potential.

"Transmission is clearly the biggest issue that we have. In the beginning we had many people that were saying that wind development in North Dakota was not possible because there was no transmission. Since that time we have actually interconnected almost a thousand megawatts of wind throughout the state. So at this point I don't think there's much more room on the grid in North Dakota without that new transmission. Other than that, I think we need to be careful to enact good legislation and siting rules that promote wind development in a balanced way that's good both for the developers and the local communities and landowners."

North Dakota currently ranks 13th in the nation when it comes to installed wind capacity. The state has 714 megawatts installed and 345 megawatts under construction. Texas leads the nation with more than eight-thousand megawatts installed and another thousand under construction. And while North Dakota edges the state of Texas when it comes to wind energy potential both could produce more than one-trillion kilowatt hours of electricity each year.