Permitting Wind Energy Developments
Wind energy developments don’t just appear overnight. It’s a lengthy, informative process where people are encouraged to make their comments heard.
It is based upon the rule of law. If the project meets local zoning ordinances and state law, it should be permitted. Here is how it works:
A wind project is usually a response to a need for more electricity from a North Dakota utility company. A wind developer then starts by meeting with landowners and county residents to describe the wind farm and its proposed location. The size and location may change several times based upon landowner feedback, environmental and wildlife considerations and other factors. From there, the developer is required to seek a permit at the county level, often known as a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). Once the CUP application is filed, the county commissioners will hold a public hearing allowing local residents to voice their views. Sometimes the local planning and zoning board will host a hearing and offer a recommendation to the County Commission. But, the County Commission has the final say on issuing a CUP, which is required in all counties in North Dakota.
A state permit is also required for a wind development and is under the control of the PSC. The PSC is required by law to hold a public hearing in the community where wind developments will be constructed. Everyone is welcome to attend the public hearing. Recently, the PSC held a public hearing in Burke County and heard testimony from the applicant and from the public for more than 12 hours. The Commissioners werepatient, attentive, studious, and courteous. The public had every opportunity to voice their opinions. Many were in favor, many opposed, and each comment was noted.
During a PSC public hearing, mounds of data is presented and dozens of questions are asked. Input from ND Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife, the wind developer, and the State Historic Preservation Society and other agencies are reviewed in detail with questions and concerns addressed.
We believe wind energy is good for our state. Its part of our State’s evolving energy industry where we have diversified our economy and have become an energy powerhouse. Thirty years ago, then Governor Sinner launched the Vision 2000 committee where business people from around the state gathered to brainstorm on what we can to do to grow and diversify our economy and create jobs so our graduates would stay in the state. At the time, there was a mass exodus of our youth to big jobs in other states, because we didn’t have jobs for them at home. Today our economy is booming with opportunity and jobs for our young adults so they can choose to stay in North Dakota if they wish.
This booming economy is good for North Dakota landowners, residents and businesses. Wind developers have invested more than $3 billion in North Dakota and has been part of that diversification. Recently, PSC Commissioner Brian Kroshus stated, the PSC makes its decisions based upon the rule of law, not political pressure. That is how it should be…follow the rule of law. If an applicant follows the rules and meets the requirements of North Dakota law, a permit should be granted. We don’t know which projects will be approved, but we do know wind development has been good for our State. We will continue to help the public and decision-makers understand the facts and see the benefits of wind development, and support following the rule of law.