The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday issued final regulatory approval for Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s 77–wind turbine project with a nameplate capacity of 115.5 MW. The $250 million project, which will cover 30,000 acres about 15 miles south of Minot, N.D., could be the largest cooperative-owned wind farm in the nation when it is operational in early 2010.

The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) on Monday issued a final FONSI permit (finding of no significant impact) to Basin Electric subsidiary Prairie Winds ND Inc., which will own and operate the project. The permit addressed environmental impacts that may be caused from construction and operation of the wind farm. The review is part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, which includes addressing endangered species issues.

The permit’s issuance marks a milestone for the project that was started two years ago. “Since this is the largest wind project in the country to be owned solely by a cooperative, we had to address many ‘first of a kind’ issues,” said project manager Ron Rebenitsch. “Wind projects that do not have similar ‘federal nexus’ issues normally don’t have to address these issues. We are pleased we were able to resolve those issues and move ahead with this project.”

Rebenitsch expressed appreciation for help and support from Central Power Electric Cooperative, Minot, and Verendrye Electric Cooperative, Velva. “It’s important to have this grassroots support in completing a project of this complexity,” he said.

Construction of the project will include two phases. The first phase is primarily civil and includes building roads, foundations, and crane walks. Electrical construction of the collector system will also start shortly, said Amanda Wangler, project engineer.

PrairieWinds ND 1 is currently building another wind farm—Minot Wind 2—12 miles south of Minot. That project consists of three 1.5-MW wind turbines and is scheduled to be operational later this year. A 101-turbine project in South Dakota, to be owned and operated by Basin Electric subsidiary PrairieWinds SD 1 Inc., is also in the permitting stage and is scheduled to be operational in late 2010 or early 2011.

Source: Basin Electric