Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy plans to place anemometers on 180-foot towers to measure wind speeds and patterns in Minnehaha County.
Dusty Johnson, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, said this is the first large-scale wind measurement in Minnehaha County.
“That’s not to say there isn’t a small one, but as far as real investment and real developer interest, this is the first time we’re aware of its happening,” he said.
Jan Johnson, communications director for PPM Energy, said locating wind towers near the state’s most populous city would be an advantage.
“Being close to Sioux Falls is an asset,” she said.
Robert Zimmer farms near Humboldt. An anemometer will be placed on his property.
“I think we need it,” he said of a potential wind farm. “I think wind energy is a coming thing.”
Another anemometer will be placed near Humboldt. Monday night, the Minnehaha Planning Commission was asked to approve a conditional-use permit for a third meteorological tower 3.5 miles northwest of Sherman. Jan Johnson said the “met towers” usually collect data for 18 to 24 months.
“We like to have strong, consistent winds,” she said. “Consistent is very important. We want winds to be gusting in the peak times of the day when we need electricity.”
But the decision to build wind turbines isn’t based entirely on the wind’s strength, Jan Johnson said.
Access to population centers also is important.
Jan Johnson, a native of Crooks, said PPM is the second-largest provider of wind power. If the turbines are built, other factors, such as effect on wildlife, will be considered, she said.
“We work hard with local land owners to make sure there is the least impact on farming and ranching,” Jan Johnson said.
If the turbines are built, the three lines would create a highway for the exportation of wind power that the state hasn’t had before, Dusty Johnson said.
The only large-scale wind development in the state is in Hyde County. It provides 40 megawatts of the 44 megawatts of capacity now generated in South Dakota.
Other wind turbines are in Canova, Howard, Rosebud, Chamberlain and Gary.
PPM is serious about developing more wind power in South Dakota, Dusty Johnson said.
“You don’t spend money on anemometers and collecting and analyzing data unless it’s your belief the area is truly outstanding,” he said.
By Jill Callison
August 28, 2007