New wind farm outpacing average
WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- If the wind continues to blow across the hills near Wessington Springs, a local wind farm could end up as one of the top performing wind facilities in South Dakota. In its first months of operation, the farm is producing abo...
WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- If the wind continues to blow across the hills near Wessington Springs, a local wind farm could end up as one of the top performing wind facilities in South Dakota. In its first months of operation, the farm is producing about 11 percent better than the average wind farm in America. "The initial results are really promising," said Mike McDowell, general manager of Heartland Consumers Power District. "If this continues, I think we'll be able to say at some point that this is one of, if not the, best in the state."
The 34-turbine farm is part of the skyline along the Wessington Hills south of Wessington Springs. During the farm's grand opening in October, Gov. Mike Rounds said the farm would prevent 230,085 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere and conserve 11.2 million gallons of water per day that would have otherwise been used in traditional methods of electricity production.
After Rounds spoke at the grand opening, employees began testing the wind farm in late November. It was declared commercial on Feb. 26.
McDowell said the 34-turbine farm is performing at approximately 46 percent of capacity. The average wind farm performs at 35 percent. If the farm continues producing at its current rate, McDowell said it's likely that almost 212 million kilowatts of electricity will be produced in a year.
The Jerauld County farm is in an ideal place to harness the power of the wind, McDowell said.
"The wind blows more consistently in that area of the upper Midwest and (at) speeds more consistent than most any other place in the upper Midwest," McDowell said. "It is absolutely (about) location."
Although Heartland prefers to have three year's worth of data for an accurate assessment of a farm's output, McDowell said the chance exists that the wind farm could meet Heartland's high expectations.
"What we expected was that it would possibly be the best wind project in the state," McDowell said. "It's too early to say definitively, but the initial production is very promising."
McDowell won't be surprised if news of the farm's production increases interest in building more wind farms in the area.
Both PrairieWinds, a subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative, and Babcock and Brown are considering wind farm projects in the area.
PrairieWinds is currently considering two different central South Dakota locations for what could be a 100-turbine farm. The first location being considered involves 37,000 acres approximately 10 miles north of White Lake. The second is on 83,000 acres approximately eight miles south of Winner.
Babcock and Brown is the operator of the Wessington Springs wind farm.