S.D. wind farm gets extra time to file report

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre map locator South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new wind farm already producing electricity in northeastern South Dakota will get an additional four months to comply with a reporting deadline.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission agreed Tuesday that Tatanka Ridge Wind LLC can have until August 5 to file drawings to the agency.

But commissioners decided that in the meantime the 56-turbine project, near Toronto and Brandt in Deuel County, must submit twice-monthly updates.

The commission’s November 27, 2019, permit for the project included a condition that drawings of as-built structures and facilities, including setbacks, were due 90 days after commercial operation began.

The filing also was to provide a status report on repairs to anything damaged from project construction activities, as well as a summary of known landowner complaints and a plan for resolving those complaints.

January 5, 2021, was the first day of commercial operation at the 27,900-acre site. That meant the report was due April 5.

But Pierre attorney Brett Koenecke submitted the request from Avangrid Renewables for an extension in a March 31 letter.

Koenecke then filed a partial report Monday that said reclamation activities would start again on April 19. He went to the commission’s meeting Tuesday and took responsibility.

“We can’t comply with the as-built condition in (number) 29,” he said. “As I look at 29 I think to myself, why did I allow all those things to be bundled together in one, and why didn’t I look at the calendar and think, ‘It’s going to be tough to, tough to do in this particular circumstance.’

“So looking forward I can see some things we’d do differently. I’d like to achieve a resolution where my client continues to update and work on the B and C parts as we go forward, and then find the date that’s acceptable for the as-built drawings of the completely finished wind farm.

“As I understand the matter there are issues with access roads and with the county and township roads that can’t be resolved until frost laws are resolved this year. It was an interesting winter up in that part of the world. I spend a lot of time in Clear Lake, and you can’t count on winter up there from one day to the next.

“We have open winters in Pierre frequently. They don’t have them frequently, and you might think you’ve got one until something happens, and then you’ve got ninety days of winter. So mobilizing to go out and do these things — well now you can look back and say, well maybe we could have gotten it done at that time. I would tell there’s no way to count on the weather being that way,” he said.

One of the commission’s staff attorneys, Kristen Edwards, said staff had no objections to the extension. Edwards said weekly updates were required from other projects that were more contentious and had public liaisons assigned, but she said that wasn’t the case for Tatanka and there hadn’t been any consumer contacts to the commission about it.

A project official said the commission’s contact information had been provided to all of the households within the project area and to the county and townships’ governments. Koenecke offered to submit the bi-weekly reports on the 15th and 30th of each month through June.

That schedule was acceptable to commissioner Kristie Fiegen. “I just wanted to make sure staff had the ability to monitor this project, because when the PUC gives an extension on a waiver like this, we just want to make sure for our landowners and the people that live on those township roads and country roads are just taken care of and so we just want to monitor that,” Fiegen said.

Commission chairman Chris Nelson said he thought the repairs-status report and the complaints and response plan could have been complied with.

“Maybe the overall statement I would make is, I would not want any other developer to consider this to be a precedent-setting thing,” Nelson said. “But I think to Mister Koenecke’s point, as we do future permits, we need to look at this in particular — what is the right time frame?”

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