NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (“NextEra”) knows something that you probably don’t: Chicago may be the Windy City, but North Dakota is the Windy State. As the world’s largest generator of renewable wind and solar energy, NextEra is wrapping up the $500 million Brady Wind Farm, which will bring its North Dakota presence to 13 wind farms by the end of 2016. [1,2,3] To capitalize on the effects of climate change, Next Era should solidify its presence in the North Dakota wind market by pursuing a number of community, technology and regulatory initiatives.
North Dakota is a prime location for wind; it ranks sixth in the nation for wind energy potential, and has high energy consumption needs per capita due to its cold climate and reliance on energy-intensive industries. [4,5] The state met its prior commitment to generate 10% of electricity from renewable energy by 2015, but still uses coal-fired power for 75% of its electricity needs. Given recent downturns in North Dakota’s oil and natural gas industry, renewable energy provides a valuable revenue stream. [7,8] In fact, North Dakota has experienced nearly 250% growth in renewable energy generation over the past eight years, and the state’s oldest coal-based power plant faces a likely shutdown. [9,10]
North Dakota devotes 90% of available land to agriculture, and placing wind farms on farmland has multiple benefits:
- Given the small footprint of turbines, wind farms do not impede usage of land for normal farming and ranching operations;
- Wind farms provide lease income to North Dakota landowners, an important revenue stream given increasing problems with crop yields, flooding, and pest control due to climate change; 
- The presence of wind turbines has been shown to improve crop yields; and 
- Wind has created 3,300 jobs in North Dakota—the fourth highest in the Midwest— counteracting significant unemployment levels in the oil and gas industry due to low energy prices. 
NextEra must surmount significant obstacles to sustain success and grow its North Dakota footprint. First, competitors such as Glacier Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Xcel Energy, and Acciona are racing to expand regional wind infrastructure. [14,15,16] Lease contracts for land on which to establish wind turbines often exceed 20 years, with inconvenient switching costs for landowners; hence, it is crucial the NextEra generate and win new lease opportunities. 
Second, the impact of wind farms on the local climate is not conclusive, and some research indicates that climate change could cause decreased wind volume in the future, increasing uncertainty regarding the net present value of investments. [18,19] Lastly, even renewable energy sources such as wind carry environmental concerns. Nationwide, wind turbines have killed hundreds of thousands of birds, a particular issue for North Dakota, which lies within a major avian migratory route. [20,21]
To mitigate these concerns, NextEra should undertake a number of actions. First, NextEra should prioritize the development of new farms, and build out its existing locations. For example, NextEra is currently expanding its Oliver Wind Farm. NextEra should also work to execute more long-term contracts with electricity cooperatives that purchase its electricity, such as MinnKota Cooperative and Xcel Energy. [22,23]
NextEra should increase local outreach, such as expanding its Career Development Partnership to North Dakota State University, thereby creating trust and jobs in area communities.  Consistent, widespread education on the net benefits of wind may reduce fears and resistance to more wind farms, such as the protests surrounding the Brady Wind Farm.  Otherwise, more local governments may imitate Stark County’s recent decision to slow project growth vis-á-vis a two-year moratorium. 
Operationally, NextEra should focus R&D on innovative technology to develop consistent, safe wind energy. Statistical modeling of potential site locations, “smart” turbines, and taller turbines may provide NextEra access to a steadier, stronger wind source. [27,28] Radar can reduce bird and bat deaths.  Lastly, improvements to the generation, transmission and storage of wind energy could decrease costs from current averages of USD 0.075/kWh. 
Finally, NextEra should adjust financial forecasting for the political climate. Historically, wind projects relied heavily on government subsidies, such as the Production Tax Credit (“PTC”). PTC offsets income tax based on kilowatt hours of renewable energy produced. Republican opposition may jeopardize continued availability of the PTC, particularly if Trump becomes president. [31,32] NextEra must consider this in determining the viability of current and proposed wind farms starting in 2020, after the PTC’s planned expiration. 
North Dakota is the ideal place to focus wind generation efforts, and NextEra knows it. To capture and retain strong market share, however, NextEra needs to execute a variety of strategies concerning the communities in which it operates; technology to improve the long-term supply and safety of wind generation; and forecasting considerations for the political and regulatory climate to which it must conform.
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