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Joe Richardson, Published September 19 2010

Crabtree qualified for PSC

Brad Crabtree, candidate for Public Service Commission, released another policy and position paper, this time on wind power. I applaud candidates who clearly write on issues pertaining to the office they seek.

I have known Crabtree from work on various renewable- energy committees for nearly nine years. The policies he has written about were developed through much discussion with energy-related stakeholders throughout the region.

PSC Commissioner Kevin Cramer has rarely, if ever, graced the meetings where utility executives, landowners, other state officials, developers and environmentalists have hashed through ideas that Cramer now finds so incredulous.

North Dakota competes with other high-wind-resource states in selling our no-carbon power to markets in the east. While we have been called the “Saudi Arabia” of wind by many state politicians, none have produced a plan for exporting our power beyond the service territories of our retail utilities. Crabtree has called for the creation of a state export power marketing effort and investment in the high-capacity (765 kv) transmission lines needed to deliver that power.

Just as no one other than ourselves has the job of marketing our agricultural products to the world, no one other than ourselves has the job of marketing our wind resource to distant markets. To ensure that we are able to deliver, we should invest in the transmission. Such investments are recoverable with reasonable profit through transmission tariffs. We invest billions of state dollars in corporate securities, why not invest in transmission lines increasing our ability to develop power projects while providing a strong return on investment?

Crabtree has proposed resource-based compensation for wind farms. This proposal is superior to the setback policies in Minnesota in that it provides far greater flexibility in siting turbines. Contrary to Cramer’s attempts to make this sound ridiculous, we have already been using resource-based compensation in the oil fields.

Those who own mineral rights on land neighboring where an actual oil rig is placed share in the compensation. Downwind neighbors who lose the value of their wind to turbulence caused by a nearby turbine should be compensated for the lost value. It is a property rights issue. You can see more writing on this at my windrights.blogspot.com.

Cramer’s acting as though Crabtree’s proposals are so far out only demonstrates how isolated the commissioner has been from the energy discussions of the past decade.