On Tuesday, July 9, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a permit, with conditions, giving the go-ahead for the construction of the Crowned Ridge Wind Farm in northeastern South Dakota.
Commission members Gary Hanson, Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen made their decision at the regular PUC meeting in Pierre.
The Crowned Ridge Wind Farm will cover 53,186 acres in Grant and Codington counties. It will be capable of producing as much as 300 megawatts of energy from up to 130 wind turbines.
The wind farm is owned by Crowned Ridge Wind LLC, a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC.
Northern States Power Co., doing business as Xcel Energy, will purchase the energy produced by the wind farm.
Crowned Ridge Wind filed its application with the PUC on Jan. 30, 2019, launching a statutory six-month review period that included a public input hearing in Waverly in March and an evidentiary hearing in Pierre in June.
The 2019 legislature revised the law, extending the review period to nine months for wind energy permit applications filed with the commission after July 1, 2019.
Intervenors participating in the Crowned Ridge Wind docket included Allen Robish and Amber Christenson of Strandburg; Kristi Mogen of Twin Brooks; and Patrick and Melissa Lynch of Watertown.
Among the 46 conditions the PUC placed on the permit are those that address sound levels and shadow flicker experienced by nearby residences, the detection of ice on turbine blades, monitoring of grouse leks within the wind farm area once construction is complete, and funding for the removal of the facilities, known as decommissioning.
“I truly believe that through the conditions we specified today, we came up with a good product,” stated PUC Chairman Hanson. “We go through this process following the evidence that has been presented and making certain we follow the law. We have to base our decision on evidence, not our feelings,” he said.
“It’s been a grind to get to where we are today,” noted PUC Vice Chairman Nelson. “Having considered all the evidence presented during this process, I believe the applicant has met the burden required in state law to obtain a permit. The operational aspects of this project have to meet the requirements that the PUC and the counties have established,” Nelson said.
Commissioner Fiegen spoke about the commission’s final decision, stating, “Today we have addressed a lot of concerns brought to our attention during the evidentiary hearing and through post-hearing briefs. What we have landed on is a combination that works for the residents of the area, for the applicant and for the state.”
Crowned Ridge Wind estimates the wind farm will cost $400 million and expects it to be completed by 2020. This wind farm is separate from the Crowned Ridge II wind farm for which an application is expected to be filed with the PUC. The commission will have nine months to process that application, pursuant to the new law, which took effect July 1.
The Crowned Ridge Wind Farm docket can be viewed on the PUC's website at www.puc.sd.gov, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2019 Electric Dockets, EL19-003 – In the Matter of the Application by Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a Permit of a Wind Energy Facility in Grant and Codington Counties.