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Associated Press, Published May 04 2013

5 companies look to build wind projects in North Dakota

GRAND FORKS – Five companies have told North Dakota regulators that they plan to begin constructing wind farms this year that would generate up to 686 megawatts of electricity.

The letters of intent the companies filed with the state Public Service Commission don’t guarantee that the wind farms will be built. If they are constructed, they would increase the state’s wind energy capacity by 41 percent and would cost about $1 billion to complete, Commissioner Brian Kalk said.

The industry had gone into a slump of sorts because the law authorizing a production tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of wind energy was set to expire at the end of 2012. But an extension of the federal subsidy late last year has helped revive interest in developing new wind energy projects in the state.

Industry supporters say it’s worth it. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the federal tax credit’s cost last year of $1.8 billion helped spur wind-energy business of about $18 billion.

“The extension of the wind production tax credit has improved the prospects for wind to be developed,” said Eric Norberg, president of Allete Clean Energy. “It’s still a very competitive market.”

Allete Clean Energy received a permit in August to build a 100-megawatt wind farm adjacent to Minnesota Power’s Bison 1, 2 and 3 projects northwest of Bismarck.

The tax credit extension only helps, Norberg said.

Congress sweetened the subsidy early this year, increasing it to 2.3 cents and only requiring construction to begin in 2013. Construction must be completed by the end of 2014 to qualify.

Wind energy already makes up about 26 percent of the state’s total electrical power generating capacity of about 6,436 megawatts, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the latest figures from the PSC.

Letters of intent are far from certain deals. A dozen or more previous proposals, dating back as far as five years and totaling 5,704 megawatts of wind power capacity, have gone unbuilt.