PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two more wind farms are on the way for South Dakota.
The state Public Utilities Commission approved permits Tuesday for the Crowned Ridge project in Grant and Codington counties and the Triple H project in Hyde County.
NextEra Energy Resources proposed Crowned Ridge. The commission held an evidence hearing during parts of three days in June.
Attorney David Ganje represented the interveners. Sound and flicker studies were among the matters he said weren’t adequate.
Northern States Power has agreed to purchase the 300 megawatts the $400 million facility would produce from 130 turbines proposed in Waverly, Rauville, Leola, Germantown, Troy, Stockholm, Twin Brooks, and Mazeppa townships.
“This is an incomplete application under any interpretation,” Ganje said.
Commissioner Chris Nelson added a condition requiring the decommissioning escrow account be placed with a South Dakota-chartered bank or a federal bank with an office in South Dakota.
Nelson said Ganje made “a good point” about difficulties understanding the project. “It’s been a grind to get where we are today,” Nelson said, but added he now has a full understanding.
Commission chairman Gary Hanson said the sharp-tailed grouse leks presented an opportunity to gather information that would be helpful for other projects in South Dakota and the Great Plains.
“I would have an independent study,” Hanson said. He added, “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to pursue it.”
Commission staff attorney Kristen Edwards said her understanding was there wouldn’t be mitigation but the lek information could be used for future projects.
Nelson opposed it because there wasn’t an easy way to have a control in the research.
“I’m very uncomfortable with us mandating a study that does not get us scientific information,” Nelson said. “This is a big deal and I don’t think we can answer those particular questions today.”
Hanson countered that he would put “my faith” in an independent company to study it.
The third commissioner, Kristie Fiegen, said the six-month window was too short of time to do everything she felt was required. (A longer nine-month period took effect July 1 for new applications filed after June 30.)
“It has really been a frustrating application,” Feigen said. She put her faith in the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. “Is it perfect? No,” she said.
Hanson’s lek study passed 2-1 with her support. Hanson said he’s never been “completely comfortable” with any of the wind projects approved during his 17 years on the commission. “The fact is, the law is the law,” he said.
Nelson said the interveners could have hired experts to discredit the company on shadow flicker and sound. He said the applicant nonetheless must meet the standards set by the commission and the counties.
Fiegen spoke of the project’s complexity. “This has been a tricky application because of the footprint. The footprint is a jigsaw puzzle,” Fiegen said.
The Triple H project was a walk in the park by comparison.
ENGIE North America wants to build the 250-megawatt, 92-turbine complex across the townships of Eagle, Chapelle, Highmore, and Holabird about three miles southwest of Highmore in Hyde County.
Attorney Brett Koencke of Pierre represented the $300 million project that is scheduled for completion in 2020. Walmart is buying 150 megawatts, while a confidential institutional buyer has committed to 48 megawatts. The remaining 52 megawatts will sell on a merchant basis.
“This project enjoys broad public acceptance,” Koenecke said. He hopes to get in the field in August. “There are fields that didn’t get planted. Some did,” he said.
“Obviously this is an unusual request but I understand why they’re making it,” commissioner Nelson said, adding that the community’s support went “a long, long ways” to show ENGIE took care of matters.
Nelson said South Dakota has a strong record of good banks and good regulations, and wants the decommissioning escrow in a South Dakota-chartered bank or a national bank with an office in South Dakota.
Commissioner Fiegen said the company and the community represented a “win-win” for the Highmore community.