First review of Wild Springs Solar is positive

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — No one spoke against a proposed solar-electricity project during a public input meeting the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission held Wednesday night.

Geronimo Energy seeks a state permit to construct and operate the 128-megawatt Wild Springs Solar facility just south of New Underwood in Pennington County.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative plans to buy the electricity for 15 years after the plant is running.

Melissa Schmit, a Geronimo official, presented an overview of the project. Company officials answered questions throughout the 70-minute meeting.

Among the supporters were the general managers of two rural electric cooperatives in the area that are Basin customers.

Victor Simmons of Rapid City is chief executive at Rushmore Electric Power Cooperative. “There isn’t a local generation source in our area,” he said.

Dick Johnson of Wall manages West River Electric Association. He said Wild Springs is in the middle of the co-op’s service territory.

Johnson said the facility’s tax revenue, its four full-time permanent jobs and peak construction force of 150, and its competitively priced much-needed renewable power were four reasons for his support.

Company officials, responding to other citizens’ questions, said there would be little interference with shortwave radios, the sound would be within Pennington County’s standard and the solar collection panels are designed to not interfere with a motorist’s vision.

The three landowners for the 1,499-acre project are Gale Bruns, Steve Swanson and Gene Crosbie, who said their ranches have been in their respective families since 1908.

“I’ve seen too much power flow through South Dakota to other states,” said Bruns.

“This has been a long time coming,” Swanson said.

Interested parties have until July 14 to formally intervene in the docket. The commission has a February 15, 2021, deadline to reach a decision.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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