Governor celebrates ‘phenomenal’ Crow Lake wind projectWHITE LAKE — Officials and the public dedicated a $363 million wind project Thursday with a ceremony at the White Lake School.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WHITE LAKE — Officials and the public dedicated a $363 million wind project Thursday with a ceremony at the White Lake School.
Due to heavy rains recently, the ceremony was moved from the project site, but it still drew a crowd of about 200.
The 162-megawatt Crow Lake Wind Project will raise Basin Electric Cooperative’s renewableenergy portfolio to more than 700 MW.
“We’re proud of this facility,” said Ron Harper, CEO of Basin Electric. “Again, it becomes a part of our overall resource portfolio, but more important, continues to show our dedication and commitment to respective states that our membership serves in.”
The wind project is comprised of 108 turbines, 100 of which are owned and operated by PrairieWinds SD1 Inc., a subsidiary of Basin. Seven turbines are owned by local investors who formed the South Dakota Wind Partners. One is owned by Mitchell Technical Institute to enhance its wind turbine technology program.
MTI President Greg Von Wald spoke Thursday about one young man’s path through the program.
Cody Telgrin came from Nebraska in the summer of 2009 to attend MTI. Von Wald met him at Cabela’s, where Telgrin worked.
“Over the next two years, I kind of kept my eye on this young fellow,” Von Wald said. “He gained a tremendous amount of technical knowledge.”
Telgrin worked hard during and after the school day and between tice.
“He had some self-doubts about what it was going to be like at 300 feet,” Von Wald said. “Shortly after that, we took possession of this wind turbine that we’re dedicating here today, and the students started to climb it.”
Telgrin climbed the turbine and felt his self-doubts slip away. Von Wald received several photos from instructors of students climbing the turbine.
“In one of those pictures was a work shifts to gain further knowledge about his chosen profession, Von Wald said. However, when it came to practical application, Telgrin was worried he wouldn’t be able to climb wind turbines without some prac- young man up there, tied off, hard hat on, glasses on, hands on his hips, and just a big smile, and it was Cody Telgrin,” Von Wald said.
Two weeks before graduation this year, Telgrin gained employment with Outland Energy Services in Minnesota as a wind turbine service technician.
“I tell you this story because it illustrates just how important that one wind turbine is to training technicians to do their job,” he said.
As South Dakota continues to harness the often raging winds of the upper Plains, many can’t help but think how wind used to be a problem.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke at the dedication ceremony about how the wind affected his parents’ farming operation. He remembered climbing into the cellar when tornadoes threatened the Dell Rapids area or feeding cattle in 30-belowzero temperatures and the freezing wind whipping his face.
“The wind was not my friend, but today, wind can be very much our friend,” he said. “It’s generated power for our homes, our schools, our farms and ranches, and our businesses. In the past, when storms would come and it would blow down trees and branches, it would snap power lines and the lights would go out. Today, when the wind is blowing, it helps the lights come on.”
When Daugaard entered the governor’s office as lieutenant governor in 2003, the state had 3 MW of installed commercial wind. Since then, the Legislature has been incenting companies to install more wind power and the industry is getting better, Daugaard said.
“Now South Dakota, with this project added, has 782 megawatts of installed commercial wind,” he said. “If those turbines are all turning at capacity, that can power 70 percent of South Dakota’s homes.”
Of the 782 MW, 300 MW comes from the cooperative-owned wind turbines in South Dakota, said Jeff Nelson, general manager of East River Electric Power Cooperative.
Another aspect that makes the Crow Lake Wind Project interesting is that seven turbines are owned by individuals across the state. Jim Burg, president of South Dakota Wind Partners and a former state public utilities commissioner, said the group began by soliciting investors.
Within two months, the group had 608 people invest $15.96 million.
Over the next year, those investors will receive $793,000 total in interest and $230,000 total in dividends from the wind project. In seven years, the investors will receive $5 million in interest and $1.5 million in dividends.
Besides paying off for the investors, a portion of the project will benefit local schools.
“Every 30 turbines brings about $100,000 to the school district where those turbines are located,” Burg said, speaking of property taxes. “And they also bring about $100,000 to the county.”
Seventeen turbines in the Crow Lake project will contribute to the Wessington Springs School District. Plus, the Wessington Springs Wind Project has 34 turbines in operation. These together will generate about $200,000 for the school district, Burg said.
“They’ve been very productive,” he said of the Crow Lake project. “We estimated the business plan called for having wind generation about 42 percent of the time, and that’s phenomenal in the industry.”
He added that many in the industry can’t believe any wind project could ever produce that much energy. However, in April, South Dakota Wind Partners recorded turbines were available 64 percent of the time, “which is absolutely phenomenal,” he said.
“The question that comes to me is, can this be replicated? Can we do this again? I sure hope so,” Burg said. “I hope that we’ve only opened the door to do it.”