South Dakota’s second-largest wind farm approved by the PUC

South Dakota’s expanding wind energy industry took another leap forward today when the state Public Utilities Commission approved PrairieWinds SD 1, a 165-megawatt wind farm that will spread over parts of Jerauld, Aurora and Brule counties. Basin Electric Power Cooperative expects to begin construction of the wind power facility in mid-July 2010 and be operational by March 2011.

The project will be constructed near Crow Lake and include up to 110 wind turbines and a 13-mile 230 kilovolt transmission line as well as other associated facilities. Data collected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the South Dakota Wind Resource Assessment Network shows the Crow Lake area has an excellent wind resource.

When operational, PrairieWinds SD 1 will be the second-largest wind farm in South Dakota. The largest, Buffalo Ridge II at 210 MW, is under construction in Brookings and Deuel counties. Currently operating wind farms in the state are capable of collectively producing more than 412 MW of wind energy.

Those facilities include the South Dakota Wind Energy Center in Hyde County, MinnDakota Wind Farm and Buffalo Ridge I in Brookings County, Tatanka Wind Farm in McPherson County, the Wessington Springs Wind Project in Jerauld County, the Titan Wind Project in Hand County and the Day County Wind Farm.

Basin Electric filed its application to construct the wind farm with the PUC on Dec. 30, 2009. Nearly 100 people attended a public input hearing hosted by the PUC in White Lake in March. A PUC staff team of one attorney and three analysts negotiated a settlement agreement with Basin Electric representatives regarding construction of the wind farm.

The commission unanimously voted in favor of the agreement at its June 15, 2010, meeting. The agreement specified terms and conditions the company will follow before, during and after the construction of the wind farm. There were no intervenors in the case.

PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson noted the economic impact the wind farm will have on the rural area. "Easement payments to landowners, taxes paid to the counties and state, and the jobs created by the construction and operation of this wind farm will have a significant and welcome effect," Johnson stated.

Steve Kolbeck, commission vice chairman, lauded the PUC staff for its expediency in processing the siting case. State law directs the PUC to render a decision on wind energy facilities within six months of receiving the application. "I offer my thanks to staff for their efficiency and to Basin Electric for bringing their business to town," Kolbeck said.

Commissioner Gary Hanson reflected on the growth of the wind industry. "In a little more than one year’s time, the PUC has permitted the state’s two largest wind projects," he said, referring to Buffalo Ridge II and PrairieWinds SD 1. "When fully operational, these projects will push South Dakota’s total wind energy production capacity to more than 787 MW. That’s phenomenal growth considering just two years ago we had 186.8 MW of wind energy in South Dakota," Hanson said.