PIERRE — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Monday approved a construction permit for the Lookout Solar Project, a solar generation facility in Oglala Lakota County capable of generating up to 110 megawatts of electricity. It is the state's first large-scale solar facility permit.
Lookout Solar is owned by Wircon USA, a subsidary of the German-based solar energy company. The solar farm is located about 25 miles east of Hot Springs and about 40 miles south of Rapid City.
Construction of the $100 million facility, built on approximately 810 acres on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2021. The proposed project is expected to include up to 500,000 solar panels, an energy storage facility, access roads, underground 34.5 kilo-volt electrical collector lines, an underground fiber-optic cable, a collection substation, an operations and maintenance facility and temporary construction areas.
Lookout Solar and PUC staff reached an agreement regarding the construction of the facility, including specifying 37 conditions that must be adhered to during the construction and operation of the project. The PUC said land restoration, habitats of threatened and endangered species, cultural resources reporting, decommissioning, avian and bat mortality, and prairie grouse lek surveying are among the details the conditions addressed. Additionally, the commission voted to include a condition requiring the company to submit the landowners’ lease agreement approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Commission prior to commercial operation.
“This project contains many unique components. As a result, our permit contains conditions that are equally unique,” said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson said in a statement. “With every siting permit the PUC issues, we aim to include protections for South Dakota citizens and their property. In this case, the property on which this project will be built is individually-owned Indian trust land. The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides an additional layer of oversight for the project and an extra layer of protection for landowners.”
Upon completion, Lookout Solar will interconnect to the high-voltage transmission lines owned by Western Area Power Administration near Cottonwood Cutoff. A buyer for the power produced by the project has not been announced.