Thunder Spirit Wind clears 150 MW project at North Dakota PSC

On a 2-to-1 vote, with one commissioner offering a qualified objection, the North Dakota Public Service Commission on Oct. 9 approved the 150-MW wind project of Thunder Spirit Wind LLC.

In August 2011, Thunder Spirit Wind opened this case by filing a letter of intent to submit an application for a Certificate of Site Compatibility for a wind energy conversion facility in Adams County, N.D. On March 8, Thunder Spirit filed an amended letter of intent that reflected a later proposed construction and estimated completion date. On June 4, Thunder Spirit filed an application for a Certificate of Site Compatibility.

The project will have a nameplate generating capacity of up to 150 MW, consisting of either up to 75 x 2-MW turbines, 65 x 2.3-MW turbines, or 50 x 3.0-MW turbines, and associated facilities. Assuming certain net capacity factors, the projected average annual output is estimated at 676,710 MW hours per year.

Thunder Spirit plans to use Vestas Vi 00 2.0 MW turbines, Siemens SWT 2.3-108 2.3 MW turbines or Acciona AW 116/3000 3.0 MW turbines.

Commissioner Randy Christmann, in his dissenting opinion, noted that North Dakota statute sets an objective that 10% of all electricity sold at retail within the state by the year 2015 be obtained from renewable energy and recycled energy sources. This objective applies to all retail providers of electricity in the state, regardless of ownership status.

“The Legislature could have set a renewable objective higher than ten percent, or it could have set a renewable objective of at least ten percent,” Christmann wrote. “Clearly the ten percent objective, while not technically enforceable, was set with an objective that the other ninety percent should be obtained from traditional energy sources. Whether the objective that ninety percent of all electricity sold at retail within the state by the year 2015 be obtained from traditional energy sources is to assure dependability, long-term price stability, or for other reasons is of no concern in this decision. Since North Dakota’s renewable and recycled energy objective was codified in 2007, producers in the state have added well over 1000 megawatts of wind generation. North Dakota’s cumulative capacity for wind power production currently stands at over 1600 megawatts. Clearly, the objective set forth by the Legislature for renewable and recycled energy production has been met and surpassed.”

Christmann added: “This application appears primarily focused on gaining local support in the Adams County area for obvious and substantial economic development reasons and on hurrying along a starting date in order to qualify for the federal Production Tax Credit. While additional economic activity in this rural area of the state is an important and worthy undertaking, it is not a compelling reason for this Commission to allow imposition of this significant additional generation cost on the rate payers or the tax payers. Since Thunder Spirit Wind’s application is silent regarding where the electricity will be marketed, the Commission must entertain the possibility that it will be marketed to North Dakota consumers. Thunder Spirit Wind needs to show how this project fits into North Dakota’s electric energy production objective before this application should be approved.”

The project site is located in Adams County, about two miles northeast of Hettinger. The project will interconnect to the Montana-Dakota Utilities Hettinger 230-kV Substation and will transmit power into the Midcontinent ISO grid. The project’s collection substation will include a power transformer to step up the voltage from 34.5 kV to 230 kV, enabling the interconnection to the MDU Substation. The project substation will be located less than a mile away from the MDU Substation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.