The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved, with conditions, the construction permit for sPower’s Prevailing Wind Park, a 219.6 MW facility in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties in southeastern South Dakota.
The latest action came at an ad hoc commission meeting in Pierre on Nov. 20. Prevailing Wind Park will include up to 61 wind turbines in a 50,364-acre area. Other components of the project will include access roads, underground collector lines, an operations and maintenance facility, and four permanent meteorological towers.
PUC staff and sPower’s Prevailing Winds LLC proposed more than 40 conditions that address issues such as road conditions during construction, cultural resources, assignment of a public liaison officer and land restoration after construction. The commission delved deep into discussion on several other proposed conditions, making changes to those dealing with shadow flicker, sound level, avian mortality and decommissioning. The commission’s order with the conditions is expected to be issued by the end of November.
The wind farm was originally developed by South Dakota local development group Prevailing Winds, which sold the project to sPower in October 2017. This year, sPower executed a 30-year power purchase agreement with an undisclosed utility for the project.
“It’s not easy to strike a balance between the needs and wants of area landowners and the wind industry,” says Kristie Fiegen, PUC chairperson. “In the end, I believe we followed state statute and the authority given to the PUC by the state legislature.”
“We all want to protect property rights and the rights of citizens,” says commissioner Gary Hanson, the PUC’s vice chair. “The rights of persons to develop their property is balanced by the rights of other persons to enjoy their own property without excessive intrusion from the development. The conditions we approved came as close as we legally can to resolve intrusion issues.”
Commissioner Chris Nelson also spoke to the commission’s authority in granting the permit with conditions: “It is important to understand that the commission has to base its decision on what has been presented in the record during these last six months and what the state law allows us to do. Considering that criteria, we have appropriately integrated competing interests.”
Prevailing Wind Park filed its application with the PUC on May 30. A public input hearing was held in Avon in July, and an evidentiary hearing was held in Pierre in October. Parties to the docket included Prevailing Wind Park, PUC staff and eight intervenors. State law requires the commission to make a decision within six months of receiving a wind energy facility application.