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Work underway on 10-acre solar energy farm in Pierre

PIERRE (AP) -- Work has begun in Pierre on what is expected to be the biggest solar energy project in South Dakota. The 10-acre solar farm at the Pierre airport will have 11 rows of 500-foot-long solar panels, and two rows of 400-foot-long panels...

PIERRE (AP) - Work has begun in Pierre on what is expected to be the biggest solar energy project in South Dakota.

The 10-acre solar farm at the Pierre airport will have 11 rows of 500-foot-long solar panels, and two rows of 400-foot-long panels. It will generate 1 megawatt of power, enough to meet about 3 percent of Pierre's needs, City Administrator Leon Schochenmaier told the Capital Journal.

"(It) will be hooked directly into the city's electrical system." he said.

It's the first solar project for Sioux Falls-based Missouri River Energy Services, which provides about 40 percent of Pierre's power. The company approached the city with the idea after studying Pierre, Vermillion and Dennison, Iowa, and determining that Pierre was the most suitable place.

"It's an excellent site for solar energy," said Dwight Jelle, president of Minnesota-based Best Power International, which will operate the facility. "It slopes down to the south, and it's wide open. There's no shading involved with any parts of the facility."

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The City Commission approved the project last May. It will be the largest solar farm in South Dakota, according to Jelle.

The project is expected to be finished and delivering power by the end of September. University of South Dakota researchers will study the solar farm's energy output.

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