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NorthStar, Red Rock wind projects progress

By Staff | Aug 5, 2009

The NorthStar and Red Rock wind projects are progressing well, with transmission remaining a key issue, the same issue facing similar wind projects in the region.

Al Blum, chairman of both projects, said Tuesday that NorthStar is in the final stage of development. Permitting and site work have been completed and developers are now working on the transmission issue. NorthStar is not alone, with a total of 19 projects in northwestern Iowa, southwestern Minnesota and South Dakota awaiting a decision on transmission, Blum said.

Blum said NorthStar could be ready to start construction within a year. Project development started four years ago July.

Interestingly, the $500-million, 200-megawatt project will benefit from the economic downturn in a number of ways, said Blum. The federal government is turning up the heat on alternative energy projects and turbines are actually cheaper than they were before, Blue said. Another positive factor is a major shift in the attitude that only those wind projects located near major transmission lines were viable. Instead, attitudes have turned toward realizing that grids have to come to the wind – something that is finally putting the horse in front of the cart.

NorthStar will also benefit from its relationship with equity partner Edison-Mission which has emerged unscathed through the banking crisis.

Blum said banks were awaiting President Obama’s policy announcement regarding alternative energy. Some good news came this spring when the energy tax credit was extended for three years.

Red Rock, which began development a year ago, will be a separate but sister project to NorthStar. The $700-million, 300-megawatt project will have 200 turbines. Red Rock was formed in partnership with landowners and a developer, National Wind.

Blum underscored that developers must run a gauntlet of no fewer than 13 regulatory agencies from the federal to local level, including the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and county zoning officials.

Blum stressed that both projects are community-owned. “That gives the community an opportunity to be involved in the project,” Blum said. “We’re able to have some ownership in this.” Both projects are limited liability corporations.

Red Rock is now entering the permitting process. If the transmission issue is soon resolved, Blue said construction could start on Red Rock within a year.

“This is just getting started. it truly is,” Blum said. He said Red Rock could be done in stages with construction completed by 2013.

Red Rock will generate $1.5 million in additional real estate taxes in Dickinson and Emmet counties and $900,000 yearly in landowner leases, Blum said.

A meeting for prospective investors who live or own property in Emmet, Dickinson, Palo Alto or Clay counties will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center Pebble Beach Room at 1405 Highway 71 S. in Okoboji. For more information, call 712-362-7272 or go online to www.RedRockWindEnergy.com