Is the answer blowing in the wind?

Would you put a 350-foot wind turbine on your land?

That’s the question my dad was asked by a representative of NextEra Energy Resources not long after the company expressed interest in leasing a small corner of land in an area owned by our family about 2½ miles west of our farm.

The turbine would be part of the Brady Wind Energy Center II project NextEra plans to stretch across northern Hettinger County as a complementary project to the larger Brady Wind Energy Center I proposed for southern Stark County.

My dad promptly asked me the same question and others. “What do you know about the company?” And, “What do you think we should do?”

The turbine in question would go on land our family has placed in a trust, of which I’m the youngest member. Because a wind turbine has an expected lifespan of 30 to 40 years (maybe more, depending on how long NextEra wants to keep it there), it’s a decision that my dad will have the final say on, yet is one that’ll impact me for, presumably, the rest of my life.

So, what should we do? It’s not an easy question to answer.

You may ask why. “Sounds like free money,” you might be saying. Or, “Don’t you believe in clean energy? Why do you hate the Earth?”

Well, there’s no such thing as free money. Yes, I believe in clean energy. No, I don’t hate the Earth. I believe in an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America’s future. Oil, coal, wind and solar all have a place, even though the last one may not be all that great here in North Dakota.

NextEra has built 11 wind farms throughout the state that generate 851.4 megawatts of energy through 567 turbines. To put that amount of energy into perspective, the Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood generates about 1,100 megawatts.

The Brady Wind Energy Center I project, which was pushed out of the Gladstone and Taylor area by feuding landowners and Stark County commissioners earlier this year, is now planned for a wide stretch between the Lefor and Schefield areas.

It would become NextEra’s biggest wind farm in North Dakota, with 87 turbines generating 150 megawatts of energy. If it and the Brady Wind II project in Hettinger County are approved, they’d combine to become one of the company’s biggest wind projects in the 18 states it has built them in.

Still, getting everyone to agree on a large wind farm doesn’t happen easily and without proper questioning. Almost instantly, the proposed Brady Wind projects have sparked debate among neighbors and landowners who either are completely for, completely against or undecided about the projects.

Some say the lease agreements with NextEra are too complicated or vague with too many possible loopholes. Others say the royalties the company wants to provide landowners are too little and need to account for inflation. A few are concerned that if oil prices skyrocket again and drilling companies head south of Interstate 94 to explore the Tyler Formation, the wind energy lease agreements could cause problems with potential — and much more lucrative — oil and gas lease agreements.

These are all valid concerns and NextEra needs to answer them — and scores of others — concretely, plainly and without any corporate speak if it wants its wind projects to be built in southwest North Dakota.

My family, like so many others, continues to weigh the positives and negatives regarding having a wind turbine on our land for decades to come.

What we’ve found in talking with neighbors and other landowners is that where NextEra wants to put the wind turbine is an almost ideal spot compared to many others. No one lives within 3 miles of that area and NextEra would even have to build a road to and from the turbine for maintenance reasons, as it’s a glorified section line and basically impassable after a quarter-inch of rain.

But for others, this project may not far off and more complicated.

Though this is bound to be a burning issue for our area in the months to come, this column is the final time I’ll be commenting on the Brady Wind projects for the foreseeable future. As it impacts me directly, I’m from this point forward abstaining from writing news stories about the projects and I’ll have no say in Press editorial boards on the subject until it is decided.

But just because I am removing my viewpoints and observations from the journalistic process from this point forward, it doesn’t mean readers should. What do you think about the Brady Wind projects? Send me a letter to the editor at dmonke@thedickinsonpress.com. Include your name and address, and make sure it’s 400 words or less and I’ll print it.

The public’s opinion on this project is extremely important and it must be heard. So, the floor is open. It’s time for you to have your say.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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