SUMMIT – A large wind power project near here that fell apart with the failure of the Big Stone II coal-fired power plant project is being revived on a smaller scale.
A meeting was held near Waubay recently with about 40 local landowners and others where they were given basic information on the creation of SummitWind Farm, a 90-megawatt project that aims to replace the original, much larger SummitWind project.
SummitWind had originally been designed as a 250-megawatt system of wind turbines designed to feed wind-generated electricity along a 26-mile transmission line to a new substation south of Big Stone City that was to also be tied to the new power plant and high-voltage transmission lines into Minnesota.
When Otter Tail Power and its partners decided numerous Minnesota permitting delays and rising costs had reached the breaking point for Big Stone II, the main investor in constructing SummitWind – Spanish wind power giant Iberdrolla Renewables— also pulled out.
In June 2012, SummitWind founder and General Manager Jim Newcomb announced that expiring five-year land leases for turbine siting and transmission line easements would not be renewed.
Newcomb announced recently a development partner had been found in OwnEnergy, Inc., a wind power development company based in Brooklyn, N.Y. OwnEnergy has specialized in developing community-level wind farms of a smaller scale of 10 to 100 megawatts in size.
In summarizing plans unveiled at the Waubay meeting by Newcomb, Russell Laplante and Scott Kuhlke of OE, Newcomb said the scaled-down version of SummitWind Farm will center its footprint just south of Summit where an estimated 39 wind turbines will be erected over approximately 10,000 acres.
Transmission capacity has been a major stumbling block for large wind projects in South Dakota, having played a role in the original SummitWind project being shelved. This smaller 90-megawatt farm will be able to tap into transmission lines from the Western Area Power Adminstration (WAPA) that runs from Watertown to Fargo, N.D., Newcomb said in an email to the Public Opinion following the meeting.
“The available transmission for SummitWind Farm that we see is in WAPA, not MISO and Big Stone,” Newcomb said. “So this SWF project will be able to interconnect either right in the project footprint south of Summit or we may have to start at the (Summit substation) for an offtake into the 115kV line already there….
“Construction will start six to nine months prior to in-service which is determined by a final interconnect agreement with WAPA and selling production through a power purchase agreement, all anticipated within the next 12 to 18 months.”
Having an agreement with an entity to buy the power is also key, of course, and Newcomb said negotiations are under way.
“We are starting and have made contact with Basin Electric (of Bismarck, N.D.) and some of it’s members,” he said. “In addition, we could sell to a large consumer, town(s) or even Xcel by paying a wheeling charge through WAPA.”
A 345 kilovolt line being proposed by Otter Tail Power and Montana-Dakotas Utilities would be a future option when it comes on line in 2019 but will not have an impact on this project, Newcomb said.
He also said with the termination of prior leases, new negotiations with landowners within the area of the farm footprint have also begun. Those who are part of the project can anticipate receiving payments of approximately $10,000 per quarter of land involved per year, he said.
Paul Dummann is a Grant County commissioner who farms south of Summit and has land that could be involved in the SummitWind Farm. He said he would like to see the project become reality.
“I’m thinking I’m going to have a quarter involved in it,” Dummann said this week. “They hope to have it started by the fall of 2015, and it really sounds like a good deal at this point, but we’ll see”
He said the company will need to go through the normal permitting process for a county conditional use permit based on existing county ordinances, but if successful, the project would be a boost for both the landowners and the county.
“It would mean about $750,000 in property taxes for the county and the schools,” Dummann said. “So if it goes, it will be a good thing for the county.”
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