PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The giant Buffalo Ridge II wind complex in eastern South Dakota now has on paper a plan for when it ends.
The state Public Utilities Commission approved the four pages Tuesday.
The plan calls for a nearly $11 million bond to be filed within 90 days and allows the commission to assign all or part of its interest to a third party.
It also calls for the project’s owner to file an updated cost estimate for commission approval by June 1, 2026, and every five years after.
One of its attorneys, Brett Koenecke of Pierre, also filed a letter explaining why recycling wasn’t part of the plan at this time.
“It’s encouraging that the recycling of the wind turbine blades is proceeding. It just doesn’t seem like it’s there yet,” Koenecke told the commission. “I would predict that with the emergence of wind and the installation of so many towers in this part of the world, that the recycling efforts would come here, because it’s easier to truck little beads someplace than huge blades.”
Commissioner Gary Hanson said the document was more interesting than he expected.
“I hope to be alive and around by when it’s tested somewhere down the line,” Hanson said. “It provides the flexibility to the commission to assure that there are funds available and flexibility in order to make certain that if the commission does not want to be chained to the process entirely that we can hire folks that are capable or experts in the field to work through that process for us.”
He added, “And I sincerely appreciate the work that staff did on putting this together, putting some brakes on and the proper governor to the process. So I think this was a real good product that was put together here.”
Commissioner Kristie Fiegen thanked Koenecke for working with the commission’s staff.
“As you know, all three commissioners have been passionate about decommissioning and really protecting our landowners,” Fiegen said. “And you guys went back to the drawing board. You even allowed us flexibility to bring you in more often — and we could do that anyway, but now it’s now in writing, so if the three of us are not here, a future commission can bring the developer or the owner back and change the decommissioning plan and re-look at the bond.”
Commission chairman Chris Nelson said the additional language was “perfect. It’s exactly what I think we need to make sure we’ve got flexibility in the future.
“The second thing I will say,” Nelson continued, “and maybe just a little bit contrary to where Commissioner Hanson was, if this all works the way it’s supposed to, this financial assurance that we’re talking about today will be a moot point. The company will come in, they will do the decommissioning as they promised, and the bond will be irrelevant. And that’s what I hope will happen, whether I’m here or not to see it, that’s what I hope will happen.
“But, if something does go awry, we need to have this on the books, and I’m very pleased with the language we’ve come up with. Regarding the blades, and what might happen with them, I am fully convinced that entrepreneurs will get aggressive in figuring that out. They’ve got a resource and they will figure out, ‘Okay, what can we do to take care of this resource and utilize these in some usable manner after their life expectancy.'”