Editorial: Preserve ND’s wind energy future

Source: By Editorial Board, Jamestown Sun • Posted: Monday, March 6, 2017

The North Dakota Legislature’s attempts to increase regulations of the wind energy industry seem heavy handed and contrary to what has been a successful energy policy for the state.

Wind energy has been a component of North Dakota’s electric generation scene for a couple of decades. It contributes a renewable component to North Dakota’s energy market basket that helps position us as an exporter of electricity. Currently, North Dakota residents use about half the electricity generated in the state with the rest sent through the grid to other areas.

As Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said, the North Dakota approach to energy is all of the above when it comes to the list of possible energy sources.

Regulations that make wind energy less viable, or worse, a moratorium that halts it for two years, aren’t the way to continue growing our energy industry and continue to export power. The North Dakota Senate rightly defeated the moratorium, which was part of Senate Bill 2314.

Senate Bill 2313, which increases the distance required between wind towers and quarter sections of land containing occupied homes not part of the wind project, passed the Senate Feb. 21 and will move to the House for consideration.

The setbacks required by SB 2313 have been called extreme by officials with Geronimo Energy. The requirements could increase costs for some wind projects and possibly drive some developers to build their projects in other states.

That’s worth repeating. Wind farm projects planned for Stutsman, Dickey, McIntosh, Logan and Emmons counties could move to friendlier states with the passage of this legislation. That is millions of dollars of potential property tax and landowner royalty payments annually gone from this region’s economy.

Wind energy has been a success in North Dakota. Investors have created the infrastructure that contributes to the supply of electricity exported from the state. Royalties paid to farmers and jobs maintaining the wind farm equipment contribute to the diversification of local economies that rely too heavily on agriculture. Property taxes paid by wind energy companies help maintain roads and operate schools in the areas with the wind farms. Wind energy is a vital part of North Dakota’s energy mix. It makes sense to defeat SB 2313.

Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board.