TRIPP - Don't count out new wind farms in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties.
After more than two years of work, Prevailing Winds, LLC.'s proposal to build more than a dozen wind farms between Avon, Tripp and Wagner could begin construction in 12 to 15 months, officials said during a public meeting Wednesday night in Tripp.
The proposed $240 million project featuring up to 61 turbines comes after Prevailing Winds withdrew its application on Sept. 13, 2016, to build a 201-megawatt wind farm north of Avon.
Though the main sections of the project are anticipated to be in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties, it will likely stretch into Hutchinson and Douglas counties as well, according to Prevailing Winds Governing Board Member Erik Johnson.
Instead of producing all the energy from a single wind farm, the divided farms can produce smaller amounts to sell to energy cooperatives. The new offer was made under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, enacted Nov. 9, 1978, to promote energy conservation and greater use of domestic and renewable energy.
And in the past year, Prevailing Winds has been busy fine-tuning project details, conducting environmental studies and talking to landowners in the area. The environmental studies include ensuring no endangered animals or species of grasses would be negatively impacted by the project, Johnson said.
"We're getting generally positive responses from landowners," Johnson said. "But we still have some work to do."
Johnson anticipates the land-leasing negotiations to be completed in the next six months, as well as finding a company to purchase the turbines' power. Once those two items are completed, Johnson said Prevailing Winds will begin the process of obtaining the proper construction licenses at both the county and state levels, with construction beginning in approximately one year.
Much like the last time Prevailing Winds proposed the development of a wind farm, some locals voiced strong opposition, citing financial, aesthetic and health reasons. With approximately 40 homes within the project area, plenty of residents are on high alert.
In an effort to ease concerns, Johnson said the entire project will utilize Bon Homme County wind ordinance standards in all counties the project touches.
"Bon Homme County has one of the best wind ordinances I've ever seen," Johnson said. "It's very thorough."
The ordinance cracks down on setback distances, tightening regulations to say wind turbines must be at least 1,000 feet away from any residence, so the turbine would not impact any residence if it fell.
It also states the turbines cannot produce more than 45 decibels of sound - about speaking volume - outside of the residence. To meet that requirement, turbines typically have to be approximately 1,400 feet away from a residence, Johnson said.
The final consideration outlined in the Bon Homme County ordinance states there can't be more than 30 minutes of shadow flicker in a single day and there can't be more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker.
"In our assumptions, we assume everyone's house is made of glass," Johnson said. "We assume it's sunny every day of the year and there's a window in the exact wrong place so our calculations are fair. We want to be a good neighbor."
Prevailing Winds formed in 2014 and has since successfully developed the Beethoven Wind Farm in Bon Homme County. With that experience, Prevailing Wind Park supporters say the group can and should be trusted to handle its most recent endeavor correctly.
One of those supporters, former state Legislator Frank Kloucek, called the opportunity to harvest wind energy "the best thing that could happen to South Dakota."
"Wind turbines have gotten so much safer, it's clean and renewable energy," Kloucek said. "We're missing a great opportunity in South Dakota without taking advantage of this."