December 21, 2009
An over-flowing crowd gathered in the Rolette School lunchroom last Wednesday evening to learn more about a potential wind farm that could be constructed within the county.
Members from JustWIND, an independent and privately held community wind farm developer located in Napoleon, held the informative meeting aimed at answering questions and concerns by those potentially affected by a wind farm. "This isn't a sign-up meeting," cautioned Jeff Metzger, president and founder of JustWIND. "We're here to gauge interest from county residents and answer questions they may have."
Questions posed covered a wide variety of topics, but two that came up more than once centered around economic impact and the length of any contract a landowner signs. According to a handout provided by JustWIND, landowners will be paid a $2.00 per acre per year payment prorated according to the date the lease is signed. The payment continues through the life of the contract unless a turbine is placed on the land.
A payment of $4,000 per year per turbine is paid to landowners who have turbines on their land and allows for an annual increase adjustment according to the lesser of 2 percent or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. A pool payment of the revenue generated in the project is shared equally among all the landowners that are signed in the project regardless of individual acreages or tower placement. This figure is dependent upon several variables specific to each project. These variables include the number of landowners in the project, power purchase pricing, and the amount of power produced. Landowners agree to sign a 30-year Wind Energy Lease and Easement Agreement which may extend for two additional consecutive twenty year periods. The first five years are subject to the North Dakota Century Code. If no development to produce energy has occurred within five years, the wind energy lease and easement is void. In addition, landowners may still use their property for all other purposes, including oil, gas and coal production, hunting, ranching, agricultural and recreational use.
Potential impact is equally great for schools and counties. According to 2008 figures, a school that levied 186 mills earned $6,634 per turbine, or $1,015,136 for 153 turbines. For comparison, last year the Rolette School District levied 189 mills for the general fund.
Metzger said when the wind blows, it doesn't just generate energy. "These towers are some of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment you're ever going to see, and they are a revenue generator. We can't tell you what to do with your land, but the only costs incurred by the taxpayers are the taxes they need to pay based on the money they make."
In terms of employment, Metzger said it is based on how many towers are constructed, saying a ratio could be one employee for every 10 towers. At the conclusion of the meeting, contact sheets were handed out to landowners. Those interested were asked to return them to JustWIND. After those letters are received, JustWIND will locate where the interest is and acquire additional knowledge of where the interest lies. Another meeting will be held, but a date for that is not yet known.
JustWIND currently has wind farm projects in Logan, Emmons, Stutsman and Kidder Counties. Other interested counties include Ramsey, Wells, Sargent and Campbell County, located in South Dakota.
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