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$297M wind farm project now in PUC process

AVON — A 61-turbine, $297 million wind farm project proposed in three area counties is moving through the process of being approved by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

Prevailing Wind Park’s application was filed with the PUC on May 30 to build a turbine project with a 219.6-megawatt capacity and earlier this week, the PUC considered the company’s filing fee to start the process to approval.

A public hearing is scheduled to be held at 5:30 p.m. July 12 at the Avon High School gym to take input for the project. The turbines are slated to be built between Avon, Tripp and Wagner in parts of Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties.

The project, called the Prevailing Wind Park, is owned by Prevailing Wind Park, LLC, a subsidiary of sPower. SPower is a renewable energy company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, which owns solar and wind projects. SPower acquired the assets and development rights to the Prevailing Wind Park project in its purchase of Prevailing Winds, LLC. That group was formed in 2014 and developed the 80-megawatt wind turbine project near Tripp, now known as Beethoven Wind, currently owned and operated by NorthWestern Energy.

In June 2016, Prevailing Wind Park, LLC filed an application with the PUC for a 200-megawatt wind farm with up to 100 turbines but didn’t have all of the land rights secured or a company to take the energy that would be produced. Two months later, the application was withdrawn.

This time, sPower has obtained the land rights needed, has secured county permits, and is scheduled to connect with the nearby transmission line that runs from the Fort Randall Dam to Utica Junction to Sioux City, Iowa.

The wind project’s location would be more than 50,000 acres or about 79 square miles in the northeastern part of Charles Mix County, the northwestern part of Bon Homme County and the southwestern corner of Hutchinson County.

In the 181-page application filed with the PUC, sPower says the two different models of turbines are proposed, ranging between 568 and 586 feet in height with a rotor diameter of 446 to 449 feet wide. The project is expected to create 245 jobs during peak construction and 8 to 10 long-term operations and maintenance jobs for the site.

The permit application noted that the Prevailing Wind project was compared to a pair of other alternative sites, including in the Turkey Ridge area southeast of Freeman and in the Beresford area. But the feasibility study found that the superior wind resource, higher elevations and 230-kilovolt Western Area Power Administration’s transmission line made the Dry Choteau Creek choteau area near Avon the best site, according to the application filed to the PUC.