Strong worker potential for Tripp wind farm
TRIPP — The 43 turbine wind project that will be constructed this summer in south-central South Dakota will not only mean good things for the wind energy business, but also for those who build and maintain the project.
Roland Jurgens, a senior project manager with wind turbine construction firm Carstensen Energy, said the B&H Wind project will have about 110 workers when construction starts next month. Jurgens said the project will be finished by the end of the year and the firms involved will likely draw use local resources and workers.
“We have to hire a lot of skilled labor on this,” he said. “You don’t put just anyone in a crane to lift a wind turbine in the air. We’ll try to hire as much local labor as we can hire, and we’ll try to use as many local tradesman as we can. A lot of the local stone and aggregate will be coming from local sources.”
That’s good news for local stakeholders in the wind industry, especially for Mitchell Technical Institute President Greg Von Wald, who said each local wind project is good news for the state and for his students, both past and present, to find well-paying jobs.
“A lot of our students find jobs and then they’re working all over the country on different wind projects,” Von Wald said. “To have more in our own backyard is a good thing.”
When the project is finished, as many as eight maintenance workers and additional managers and support staff will be employed full time to take care of the 43 turbines that will kick out 80 megawatts of electricity.
NorthWestern Energy is slated to purchase the electricity from B&H Wind, a group of 50 locals from area counties who will own the turbines.
“For a small area like this, five or six high-paying jobs are pretty important,” Jurgens said. “It’s for the next 25 years. And just that kick in construction is huge.”
Phase one of the project was approved last fall and called for 41 megawatts of electricity to be produced. Phase two is in the process of being approved, with the latest coming from the Hutchinson County Board of Adjustment, which gave the go-ahead to 10 more turbines in the county and bringing their total to 16. Charles Mix County will have 19 turbines, and Bon Homme County will have eight.
The project will cost between $110 and $120 million. Jurgens said the payback will also be strong for local landowners, who will receive payments for the next 25 years.
B&H Wind received approval from three counties — Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson — because the elevated ridge that is near Tripp Lake cuts through all three. The elevation — at more than 1,900 feet — is about 300 feet better than the Turkey Ridge wind farm in Turner and Yankton counties.
“We like to say that there’s good places to build a wind farm and there’s places that aren’t as good for wind farms,” Jurgens said. “This is a good place for a wind farm.”