PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission deferred making a decision on whether to temporarily waive an energy company’s requirement to install low-noise trailing edge attachments on turbine blades in wind farm project located in Grant County and Codington County.
Representatives from NextEra Energy Resources who are involved with the Crowned Ridge Wind project requested the waiver so the attachments could be installed in summer of 2020. The project’s completion date is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2020. NextEra faces a penalty of $75,000 per day if they do not meet the required completion date.
So far, the company has attached eight of the 87 wind turbines with low-noise attachments.
Opponents of the wind farm project testified at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 31, in Pierre, alleging the specs of turbines that have been constructed and are being tested in Grant County do not match descriptions outlined in the approved project permits.
Amber Christenson, who lives next to Crown Ridged Wind, testified the company erected turbines that are taller and generate more megawatts than permitted.
Christenson said the company was granted permission to construct wind turbines with 80 meter hub heights in certain locations, but said in those locations, the turbines had hub heights of 90 meters instead.
Darren Kearny, a staff analyst for the state Public Utilities Commission, said he could not recall whether the construction application permit documents cited specific locations for turbines with 80 meter hub heights.
Records show the permits stated that the project would construct 13 turbines with 80 meter hub heights with the rest at 90 feet hub heights.
The project was approved to construct 130 wind turbines on approximately 53,186 acres capable of generating up to 300 megawatts.
Christenson also told commissioners the turbines were supposed to generate at most 2.3 megawatts, but the turbines have nameplates that show they are capable of generating 2.7 megawatts.
Joshua Tran with NextEra and chief engineer of the Crowned Ridge Wind project, assured commissioners that the turbines are 2.3 megawatt machines. Tran explained the generators are manufactured by General Electric to produce up to 2.7 megawatts but are equipped with software capable of only 2.3 megawatts, Tran said.
NextEra has interconnection agreements with Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. and Otter Tail Power Company specify that 2.3 megawatt turbines are to be used, Tran added.
Christenson argued the flicker, which is the moving shadows created by the wind blades, and the noise of the turbines would be more disruptive to her and other neighboring residents as a result of taller hub heights.
Public Utilities Commission Chairman Gary Hanson wasn’t impressed with NextEra’s management of the project and failure to explain certain aspects of the project during previous hearings.
“The compliance with the permit is foundation. A name plate, sound and flicker — these are not new to the process,” Hanson said. "At the very least this needs to be deferred until we get some answers.”
Hanson said if the decisions isn’t deferred, his other option would be to deny the waiver.
Commissioner Kristie Fiegen noted the explanation of the megawatts and how different software would be needed to increase the turbine capabilities to 2.7 megawatts made sense, but would support a deferral so the documents could be studied more in depth.
Chairman Hanson, Fiegen and Nelson voted to defer approving or denying the waiver until a meeting scheduled for Jan. 7.
An earlier version of this story contained an error. Commission Chairman Gary Hanson was misidentified and incorrect quotes were attributed to him.