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NextEra gets green light for 300MW wind farm in North Dakota

The Emmons-Logan project will use GE turbines and a special aircraft-detection lighting system to minimise visual impact

North Dakota regulators have approved NextEra Energy’s 298MW Emmons-Logan wind project, setting up a significant turbine order for GE Renewable Energy and a big slug of power for off-taker Great River Energy.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission signed off on NextEra’s siting permit for the wind farm and an associated transmission line this week, noting unusually strong community backing for the $415m project.

NextEra, the leading US renewables developer, plans to install 123 GE turbines in addition to a 7-mile, $20m transmission line that will connect the wind farm to the existing grid in southern North Dakota.

NextEra will install a special aircraft-detection lighting system at the turbines, which will 'see' when aircrafts are in the area and turn on the blinking lights only when needed – reducing the project’s visual impact on the remote community.

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“This project has extremely strong support from community members, leaders and the landowners in this area,” says Julie Fedorchak, commissioner at the North Dakota PSC. “Many locals attended the hearing and spoke in favour of this wind farm.”

Great River Energy, a utility cooperative based in the neighbouring state of Minnesota, will take the full output from Emmons-Logan via a 25-year power-purchase agreement.

Great River, which claims to serve about 700,000 customers, remains heavily reliant on its 1.1GW Coal Creek coal-fired power plant today, but it gets another 25% of its electricity from renewables – and has pledged to reach 50% renewables by 2030 as the cost of wind plunges in the upper Midwest.

North Dakota is in the midst of something of a wind boom as the clock ticks down on the production tax credit, with a number of large projects underway from developers including EDF, NextEra, Allete and Apex Clean Energy. The vast and thinly populated state has 3.2GW of wind installed today, and more than 1GW of later-stage projects looking to get built over the next few years.

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