Proposed ND wind farm one of world's largest

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A proposed 2,000-megawatt wind farm in northwestern North Dakota would be one of the world’s largest energy projects, although new electric transmission lines are needed for it to be built, state regulators say.

“The numbers that you see being thrown around as potential development in North Dakota are truly eye-popping,” Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said Wednesday.

Hartland Wind Farm LLC is planning the $4 billion project in Ward, Burke and Mountrail counties in northwestern North Dakota. The company wants to start construction in the fall of 2010.

It will be built in stages and ultimately should have 1,333 wind towers spread over 720 square miles, said Craig Fink, one of the project’s developers. The Public Service Commission accepted a letter of intent for the project Wednesday.

Its territory is bordered by Canada to the north, the Des Lacs River to the east, U.S. Highway 2 to the south and the western border of Burke and Mountrail counties, Public Service Commission filings say.

The commission’s president, Susan Wefald, said both the Hartland project and a separate, 1,000-megawatt wind farm planned for Oliver and Morton counties will require building new electric transmission lines to carry the power.

“Planning and construction of a major transmission line can take a number of years,” Wefald said.

FPL Energy LLC, of Juno Beach, Fla., is developing the 1,000-megawatt farm, which will cost about $2 billion to build.

Fink said Hartland expects to file its formal application for a siting permit for its wind farm in June 2009. The company would like to have the permit in hand by April 2010, and start putting up wind towers in the fall, he said.

Separately, the Public Service Commission voted to allow Sequoia Energy U.S., a unit of the Sequoia Energy Inc. of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to immediately file a request for a siting permit for a 150-megawatt wind farm in Rolette and Towner counties.

The Border Winds project includes 68 turbines and will cost about $300 million to build, a company filing said. Sequoia wants to begin construction in the fall of 2009.

At present, the nation’s largest operating wind farm is a 736-megawatt project near Abilene, Texas, called the Horse Hollow Energy Center. Projects of 1,000 megawatts or more are on the drawing boards, said Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C.

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who has gained public attention for his plan to displace imported oil with wind energy and natural gas, is planning a 4,000-megawatt wind farm in four counties in the Texas Panhandle.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC and TXU Corp. a Texas energy company, are separately developing a 3,000-megawatt project southeast of Amarillo, Texas.

“With anything that size, they are dependent on more transmission,” Real de Azua said. “They’re looking big, they’re ambitious, and these projects are feasible, but the missing component is the need for new transmission to bring that wind power to market.”

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