Regulators weigh ‘end plan’ for Buffalo Ridge II

Capitol News Bureau
KELO South Dakota capitol Pierre legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The lawyers are going to work some more on what should happen when the Buffalo Ridge II wind farm in eastern South Dakota reaches the end of its service life.

The state Public Utilities Commission discussed the proposal Tuesday with attorneys representing Iberdrola Renewables. The international company owns the turbines and related equipment.

They agreed that Brett Koenecke, a Pierre lawyer for the company, should find different phrasing for the plan, so that the commission isn’t designated as a beneficiary but would have oversight authority.

Located north of Brookings, in Brookings and Deuel counties, the towers and giant turbine blades of Buffalo Ridge II can be seen to the east by motorists on I-29 traveling through the area near the White, Astoria and Toronto communities.

Commission chairman Chris Nelson said Tuesday the plan will be brought up again at “a point to be determined.” He said the plan needs to be flexible in designating beneficiaries.

The commission approved the project in April 2009. Since then, the commission has started requiring plans for winding down wind projects and removing equipment.

Koenecke said the commission could assign its rights to another party.  “I think assignability is probably the answer to the question now and in the future as well,” Koenecke said.

“I think you’re on the right track,” Nelson replied.

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen questioned Koenecke on what happens to old blades after removal. Koenecke said they would be hauled to an approved disposal site within 60 miles. The plan indicates the estimated removal cost at $6,000 per blade or $18,000 per unit. Fiegen said the commissioners have started to notice news stories from other states about blades that haven’t been properly disposed.

Said Koenecke, “It’s a concern that is not unique to you or this meeting. It’s something to think about.”

Commissioner Gary Hanson sounded satisfied overall.

“I’m comfortable with what we have before us. If it can be improved, wonderful,” Hanson said.

He agreed with Nelson that individual landowners shouldn’t be named as beneficiaries.

“We structure these documents so they can outlast all of us,” Hanson said.

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