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PSC may fine new wind farm

While the builders of the Tatanka Wind Farm at Ashley, N.D., were holding a dedication ceremony Wednesday morning at the site, a state agency was issuing the company a complaint for breaking state regulations.

The Public Service Commission, which regulates and approved the wind farm's associated transmission line, could end up fining the company as much as $200,000, said Commissioner Susan Wefald, president of the commission.

The issue is that the company had gotten PSC approval last year to build a 12.5-mile transmission line from the South Dakota border to an interconnection in Dickey County, and the PSC also approves the exact location of towers for the line. The order approving the line said the company would have to ask for permission to move any towers.

In June, the company notified the PSC it had changed the location of about 50 of the 102 towers without seeking formal approval for the changes from the agency.

"For a company to just ignore that is unfortunate," Wefald said after the PSC's Wednesday morning meeting. "Our orders include requirements that are important to meet."

The company has 20 days to respond to the complaint and then the PSC will consider a penalty.

"We'll see what the company says," Wefald said.

A company spokesman for Acciona Energy, which owns and built Tatanka, told Forum Communications that towers that were moved were done so to satisfy requests from landowners.

Normally, the PSC is invited to dedications for facilities they have participated in permitting, but the spokesman said the PSC was not invited to the Wednesday morning event to avoid any awkwardness, given that the commissioners are contemplating official action against the company.

The PSC normally also has to approve wind turbine locations but in Tatanka's case, less than 100 megawatts of electric power is being produced in the North Dakota portion of the wind farm, and that is below the threshold at which the PSC gets involved in turbine siting. Most of the generation is in the South Dakota portion of the wind farm.