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Up and almost running: Brule County wind project nearly complete

A wind turbine is being installed just Southeast of Kimball in Brule County. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 3
Wind turbines have been installed just Southeast of Kimball in Brule County. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 3
A wind turbine is being installed two miles Southwest of White Lake in Aurora County. (Matt Gade / Republic)3 / 3

BRULE COUNTY — Originally facing no formal opposition, a nine-turbine wind farm in Brule County is nearing completion after about four months of construction.

The project is south of Interstate 90, near Kimball, and is being developed by Con Edison, a New York company that calls itself one of America's largest owners and operators of renewable energy projects. A portion of the farm is on the land of Don Reinesch, a Brule County commissioner. The plan was proposed in December 2015 and approved in January 2016.

"They had hearings on this, and there was absolutely no opposition at all," Reinesch told The Daily Republic earlier this week. "Now that they started building and they started going up, there's a little bit of discussion on it. It's not really negative, but people have their own feelings about them."

Reinesch recused himself from the December 2015 conditional hearing for the project and did not participate in the vote. The remainder of the wind farm rests on the land of Reinesch's son, Todd Reinesch, and MHC Land and Cattle, owned by Christine Hamilton of Kimball.

A similar project has been approved in Aurora County. A letter was sent out to people living in the area in April from Con Edison Project Development Director Corey Juhl stating the company's goal is to have both projects fully operational by Nov. 1.

Many individuals in Kimball were seemingly surprised when Wanzek Construction arrived in town to begin construction on the wind project.

"I wasn't aware they were coming beforehand and then, boom, they're here," said Anita Holan, Kimball director of economic development.

Despite their sudden appearance, the construction workers were a welcome sight for many local businesses. The workers, who came from all over the U.S., lived and spent money locally during the last four months.

"They're so friendly and very nice people," Holan said.

Wanzek Construction began assembling the last tower in Brule County on Wednesday, and supplies were seen on the land of the Aurora Wind Project, but no towers had been assembled.

The wind towers, located two miles southwest of White Lake, will be built on land of Louise Hillman, David Reinesch, Ronald Glissendorf and David Glissendorf.

When the project is completed, each turbine generator will have the nameplate capacity, or power output, of approximately 2.3 megawatts, with the total nameplate capacity of the wind farm at 20 megawatts, which is enough energy to power about 2,250 homes for a month. Both projects will connect to the NorthWestern Energy transmission system. The projects are each expected to cost more than $10 million.

Con Edison Development received ownership of the two wind projects when the company purchased unit companies of Juhl Energy of Pipestone, Minn., in late 2016. In addition to the Brule and Aurora Wind Projects, Con Edison has developed and managed the Campbell County Wind Farm in Pollock and the Oak Tree Wind Farm in Clark County.

In April, the Davison County Commission, for the second time in three years, unanimously voted down the company's proposed wind farm project west of Mitchell. Concerns about property rights and potentially decreased property values were among the several reasons for the project being denied.

The energy produced by the Brule and Aurora County Wind Farms will be used by NorthWestern Energy to power local facilities.

"The world is becoming more dependent on renewable energies," Reinesch said. "I think all in all, when people realize the benefit they are, that eases the pain, you might say."