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Published June 19, 2009, 06:34 AM

Just Wind president says project will begin this month in Logan County

Just Wind plans to start construction on the first phase of its Logan County wind farm this month, according to Jeff Metzger, president of the company. “We look to start construction in the third week of June,” he said. “Our goal is to have 20 foundations complete in 60 days.”

By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun

Just Wind plans to start construction on the first phase of its Logan County wind farm this month, according to Jeff Metzger, president of the company.

“We look to start construction in the third week of June,” he said. “Our goal is to have 20 foundations complete in 60 days.”

If Metzger is able to meet those goals it will mark the physical start of a project for which planning started more than three years ago.

“We’re actually a year ahead of schedule but we’ve been here three years so people are wondering what we’re doing,” he said.

The hearing before the Public Service Commission concerning the wind farm was Oct. 22, 2008, with the PSC authorizing construction this spring. At the time of the hearing Susan Wefald, PSC chairwoman, called it the biggest wind farm the commission had been asked to permit.

Metzger said a key part of moving the project forward is to finalize an agreement to sell the electricity produced by the 153 planned wind turbines.

“The sale of power is key to getting funding,” he said. “The banks don’t want to lend to a developer without a power sale contract.”

Just Wind has been in negotiations with the Western Area Power Administration for a power purchase agreement for more than a year. Metzger characterizes the agreement as nearly ready to be signed.

However, WAPA officials would only say that negotiations are continuing.

“We still are in negotiations with no time frame defined for completion,” said Randy Wilkerson, public affairs officer for WAPA. “But we are pursuing negotiations only with Just Wind.”

If the power sale agreement and financial arrangements can be completed as quickly as Metzger plans, construction could start rapidly.

“We could mobilize quickly,” said Jason Kaufman, vice president of Wanzek Construction, the company under contract to erect the turbines. “We’re waiting on some final paperwork from the financial partners and we could be moving dirt in as little as two weeks.”

Kaufman said once mobilized his company would have in excess of 100 workers on the project at its peak.

When constructed the Logan County Wind Farm would be unique with the president of the company living within the project.

“I’ve bought a home in the project footprint,” Metzger said. “No one can say ‘You build them but you don’t have to look at them.’”

There are other features of the Logan County Wind Farm that set it apart from others in North Dakota.

“We’re going to have a renewable energy center along side our control center,” he said. “It will be an educational facility where school kids can be brought to tour a wind farm.”

The business model of the Just Wind operation also differs from other wind farm developers.

All property owners within the boundary of the project who have signed a participation agreement will get a payment each year. Property owners who have a turbine placed on their property will get an additional payment. Many other wind farm development companies pay royalty payments only to property owners who have a turbine on their property.

“It’s easier for everyone to buy into the program when they get a payment,” Metzger said. “The more money we can get into landowners and the community, the more main street will grow. It’s rural economic development.”

Because of the availability of turbines, Just Wind plans to erect 42 turbines this year and 111 in 2010. The total cost of the project is estimated at $850 million.

Even though this makes it one of the biggest wind farm projects in North Dakota, Metzger looks at it as just the first step for his company.

“We have five other projects planned totaling about 300,000 acres under lease,” he said. “We hope that in three to five years we have 10 projects going.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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