PUC Approves Wind Farm Plan In Clark County

Wind Energy Farm

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a plan Tuesday that could be one of the first of its kind for a wind farm in the state.

It calls for the wind farm’s owner to put aside money for when the turbines stop generating electricity.

The account would be tapped when the time comes for taking out the giant blades and towers.

The latest configuration for Crocker Wind Farm in Clark County shows building permits approved for 76 turbine sites.

Commissioner Chris Nelson praised the company.

“I just want to say to Crocker, you nailed it,” Nelson said.

He added, “It’s a plan that’s going to be well-managed.”

The agreement calls for the owner, Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, to pay into an escrow account $5,000 for each tower for each year a tower is in operation.

Plus $5,000 is required for each turbine before construction starts. The agreement lasts 30 years.

Landowners would be able to draw on the money for their expenses later in having towers taken down if the owner doesn’t do it.

The state permit is for up to 200 megawatts. 

South Dakota regulators want the escrow money kept in state. 

Geronimo Energy produced an agreement Tuesday with a Minnwest Bank branch in Sioux Falls.  The Minnesota-chartered bank has six South Dakota locations.

Commissioner Gary Hanson said landowners in the area wanted an escrow account, so they could have turbine sites restored after they’re done producing power.

“There are a number of people who testified before the commission with concerns about decommissioning,” Hanson said after the meeting. 

“That was something the commissioners had thought about, and we had actually discussed a few times for potential legislation,” he said.

“And because we had so many dockets before us pertaining to wind farms, we thought it would be frugal for us to look at it from the standpoint of making certain farmers and ranchers were not put in a position where they had extremely expensive situations with abandoned wind turbines after the life of the wind turbines had expired.”

Hanson said the commission has been told wind towers typically last 20 years and sometimes longer.

The commission called for the Dakota Range wind farm in Grant and Codington counties to have a post-production plan when it was permitted in July.

State regulators went a different direction. They decided they could adjust retail rates for customers of Xcel Energy, which already was under the commission’s jurisdiction.

Xcel had agreed to purchase Dakota Range from its developer.

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