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Published July 09, 2009, 07:42 AM

Wind farm approved despite noise complaints

State regulators approved the location of a new wind farm in east-central North Dakota despite complaints from some nearby residents about potential disruptions from turbine noise.

By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun

BISMARCK — State regulators approved the location of a new wind farm in east-central North Dakota despite complaints from some nearby residents about potential disruptions from turbine noise.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday said one of the project’s 80 wind turbines must use an alternative location to avoid disturbing a rural bed-and-breakfast business. The tower was to be built about four-tenths of a mile from Volden Farms, of Luverne, near the border of Griggs and Steele counties.

However, the three commissioners allowed a second tower location to remain just over a half-mile from Volden Farms, and turned down appeals to move three towers farther away from another rural business that makes dog sleds.

Jim and Mary Ann Miller, who own Prairie Bilt Sleds, were concerned that noise from the turbines would disturb their 21 Alaskan Husky dogs, which are used to test their sleds. Dogs are much more sensitive to the noise than humans, Mary Ann Miller said.

The wind project’s developer, NextEra Energy Resources, of Juno Beach, Fla., intends to put the three turbines between three-tenths and one-half mile from Prairie Bilt Sleds. The Millers had asked that the three turbines be placed at least a mile from their property.

Mary Ann Miller said Wednesday that the commission’s decision may force the couple to move out of state.

“Our dogs are a huge part of our business,” she said. “We are testing all of our equipment with our dogs. This is our way of life.

“I don’t understand how the state can allow this kind of thing to be happening to people,” Miller said. “You can’t fight this. It’s so big. It is like we are all peasants here.”

The commissioners said the distances comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Health and Safety guidelines about noise levels. Any noise from the turbines should not be any louder than 50 decibels just outside the homes, Commissioner Tony Clark said. That level is slightly quieter than conversational speech.

Clark said Volden Farms’ request to keep turbines at least one-half mile away was judged to be more reasonable, because one of the attractions of the business is the quiet of the rural countryside.

“People who seek a rural bed and breakfast, they’re often seeking solitude ... in the sense of getting away from it all,” Clark said. “It is something that is part of that particular business.”

Volden Farms’ proprietor did not respond Wednesday to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

Kevin Cramer, the Public Service Commission’s president, said the noise objections came from residents who live relatively near the proposed wind turbine locations, but who are not having the turbines placed on their own land. Property owners who host turbines are paid.

The wind project is being developed in two phases, dubbed Ashtabula I and Ashtabula II, after nearby Lake Ashtabula. Ashtabula I, which the commission approved Wednesday, is owned by NextEra Energy Resources and includes 80 turbines capable of generating 120 megawatts.

Separately, the commission said Competitive Power Ventures Inc., an energy company based in Braintree, Mass., had notified the agency it intends to build a 487-megawatt wind project in McIntosh County, in south-central North Dakota.

It will include 212 turbines and be built north of Ashley, the company said in a letter to the commission. The project represents an investment of about $1 billion, the company said.

Clark said Competitive Power Ventures planned to submit a formal citing application for the project in about six months. The company does not plan to start construction until 2012, Clark said.

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