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Wind farm developer looks to Ramsey County

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DEVILS LAKE -- A community wind farm developer is looking to build a large-scale facility in Ramsey County.

More than 60 people turned out Wednesday evening to hear Jeff Metzger, president of Just Wind, LLC. explain its philosophy and to begin gauging local interest a potential wind farm in the county.

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"North Dakota's going to become wind energy central," he said. "We want to find out if you're interested in becoming a part of it."

Just Wind was invited to the county by the Ramsey County Commission, Devils Lake City Commission and Forward Devils Lake, the community's economic development organization.

He said Wednesday's meeting was the first of perhaps many in the county, depending on the level of interest. More than two dozen people picked up informational surveys after the session.

Just Wind, based in Excelsior, Minn., also has an office in Napoleon, N.D., in Logan County.

The company currently is developing large-scale wind farms in Logan and Emmons counties. Together, the two counties could have as many as 760 Just Wind turbines in the next three to five years, with the first coming on line in 2010 in Logan County.

It also is developing other large-scale facilities in Kidder, Stutsman and Wells counties.

He explained that the development period, from initial informational meetings to producing wind, normally spreads over three to five years, but the company goal is three years.

The company currently is cooperating with Lake Region State College, which is beginning a wind energy technician training program this month. The first class is full. Now, the school is developing a series of online courses, according to Jay Johnson, project director.

Metzger answered a series of questions from the audience, ranging from local economic benefits to noise levels, setback distances from wind towers and community acceptance.

He said the 45 decibels of noise produced by wind turbines is about the same as a refrigerator or home air conditioner.

"In North Dakota, the wind blowing past your ears a lot of times is louder than a wind turbine," he said.

Metzger said the company works with county zoning boards to establish acceptable setback distances.

The company offered some guidelines on economic development, based on 100 megawatts of installed wind turbine capacity:

- 40 to 150 jobs are created during construction.

- Eight to 10 new jobs are created during the operations phase, reflecting a two-person operation and maintenance team for every 100 turbines.

- $500,000 to $1 million in annual tax payments.

As an example, he noted Bryant Township in Logan County. In that project, one wind turbine produces $8,512.35 in total annual tax revenue, with the bulk of it going to the school districts and county. A 160-turbine project generates $1.3 million in annual tax revenue.

A payment of $4,000 per year per turbine is paid to landowners with turbines on their property. In addition, all project participants receive pool payment, whether they have turbines or not.

He said the company pays for all studies, from feasibility to environmental.

Still, Metzger said, projects are not built without community acceptance.

"This is an informational meeting. This is not an investment meeting," he said. "It will take your cooperation if you want one."

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