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A solar farm is proposed in Oglala Lakota County

PIERRE -- State regulators are considering a plan to construct a 110-megawatt solar generating facility in northwest Oglala Lakota County on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

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PIERRE - State regulators are considering a plan to construct a 110-megawatt solar generating facility in northwest Oglala Lakota County on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The project, called Lookout Solar Park 1, would have 18 single-line transmission cables covering 11 miles in Custer County.

The state Public Utilities Commission decided Jan. 17 the facility required a state permit. A staff attorney for the commission had recommended the facility didn't need state approval.

It was the first jurisdiction decision by the commission regarding a solar facility on a reservation.

A lawyer representing the project argued the state government shouldn't have jurisdiction over a project proposed on a tribal reservation created by the federal government.

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A staff lawyer for the commission recommended Wednesday a five-mile radius be designated as the area where a local review committee will consider potential effects. There aren't any communities within the five-mile radius.

The community of Red Shirt is within 10 miles. Fairburn, Buffalo Gap, Oral and Smithwick are within 20 miles.

A megawatt-hour "is about equivalent to the amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour," according to a definition on the Clean Energy Authority website.

The commission received the request regarding state authority over the project Dec. 22.

The solar facility would cost an estimated $12 million, according to the developer. It said the associated transmission facilities would cost approximately $15 million.

The company is based at Sacramento, California. Its application came from the office in Washington, D.C., of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, an international law firm.

A map for the project filed Nov. 9 with the state agency showed the transmission lines would follow Riverside Road, 148th Avenue and Cottonwood Cutoff.

Transmission lines would be tunneled beneath the Cheyenne River in six bundles.

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An average of 200 people would be temporarily employed during construction, with a portion hired from the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Custer County, according to the notice of intent.

The current plan calls for construction to start as early as June and finish before the 2019-2020 winter.

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