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ND regulators deny permit for 198-MW NextEra wind farm

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ND regulators deny permit for 198-MW NextEra wind farm

Citing concerns about wildlife, the North Dakota Public Service Commission on June 12 rejected a siting permit application for NextEra Energy Resources LLC 's Burke Wind Project and an associated transmission line.

The NextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary, through Burke Wind LLC, had proposed to construct the 198-MW wind farm on 22,933 acres in Burke County, N.D., using 76 General Electric Co. turbine generators. NextEra also wanted to build access roads, a substation, a 37-mile 345-kV transmission line and other associated facilities.

But the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said the proposed area was "extremely important to an uncommonly high number of wildlife species due to its high degree of relatively undisturbed native habitats, including nearly 12,000 acres of native prairie and over 6,000 wetlands, and central location amid other valuable habitat areas." An agency official said NextEra "could not have picked a worse spot in the state," according to the commission's order denying the permit.

NextEra had entered into a 30-year power purchase agreement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative for the full output of the project, the order noted.

In unanimously rejecting the permit application (Case No. PU-18-344), the three-member commission said NextEra failed to meet its burden of showing that the location, construction and operation of the project would produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the welfare of the state's citizens.

The decision represented the first time commissioners recall rejecting an energy facility for those reasons, The Bismark Tribune reported.

NextEra did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a company representative told the newspaper, "We believe we have adequately mitigated for the environmental impacts of this project and we hope to have the opportunity for reconsideration."

The decision is another regulatory setback for NextEra; in May, NextEra Energy Resources dropped plans for two Oklahoma wind projects with a total capacity of 470 MW.