Three cities in south central North Dakota received a windfall of $125,000 each from NextEra Energy Resources.
The payments were made to Edgeley, Kulm and Ellendale. The communities are located near the Foxtail Wind Farm that NextEra developed and recently sold to Xcel Energy.
Construction is planned to begin on the Foxtail Wind project later this month. The project includes 75 turbines with a capacity of 150 megawatts. Preliminary cost estimates for the project are about $276 million with a planned project completion by the end of 2019.
"We have support from the communities and the customers," said Daryl Hart, director of renewable energy development for NextEra. "Because of that, we can do things like this (provide community payments)."
Hart said the presentation delivered on the commitment NextEra made to the communities during the planning stages of the project.
"If we didn't follow through, we wouldn't be invited to events like this," he said.
Don Flaherty, member of the Ellendale City Council, said the money would be used to improve the facilities for the community's first responders.
"This is extremely important," he said. "We're always scraping the barrel to provide for emergency services."
Flaherty said he hoped the money would be the first step toward the construction of a combined building for the Ellendale Fire Department and its ambulance crew.
"Now we work to advance that," he said. "This is a good step to get this going."
Kulm Mayor Tony Buerkley said the City Council would discuss how to use the funds at its next meeting.
Buerkley said the added tax base of the wind turbines had already helped fund local projects including the recently completed Kulm Public School.
"... It's good for the fire department, it's good for the community, it's good for the citizens," he said.
Steve Powers, Edgeley mayor and fire chief, said the money would go directly to the city of Edgeley and then to the community's Jobs Development group which would determine what projects could be funded.
"Hopefully some goes to the fire department," he said.
Powers said cooperation between the communities extended to economic development, local high school sports and to the development of wind energy.
"Look where we're at," he said. "Thanks to the foresight of community leaders that decided not to fight and to work together, we've made our area better."
Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said NextEra had a long history in the Edgeley area. The first wind farm in North Dakota was constructed by NextEra, operating under the name Florida Power and Light, near Edgeley and Kulm in 2002.
Hart said that was the first wind farm the company had ever built. NextEra now operates 15 wind farms in North Dakota after an investment of more than $2 billion in the state. The company is also planning future projects including a wind farm for Emmons and McIntosh counties in 2019.
Hart said an area had to have a good topography for wind turbines, meet necessary environmental considerations and have an interest from the local landowners to be considered for a wind farm.
"With the continued support from the local communities, we have no problem coming back," he said.
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