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Union County faces next ‘gorilla’  

Credit:  By Julie Ann Madden | The Akron Hometowner | akronhometowner.com ~~

“I’ve been through one energy event before,” Union County Commissioner Doyle Karpen told wind farm entrepreneurs at their March 3 meeting. “I’m tested – I can go through another.”

The other seasoned commissioners – Chairman Milt Ustad and Marvin Schempp – joined newly-elected Commissioners Richard Headid and Bob Ballard in telling Dakota Power Community Wind to “Go for it.”

The company’s board includes Beresford Mayor Jim Fedderson along with Beresford’s John Olbertson and Paul Shubeck and Hudson, S.D.’s John Haverhals.

“Our board is made up of local folks,” said company spokesperson Robin “Rob” Johnson of Aberdeen, S.D., “and we want to put up a wind farm.”

According to the S.D. Department of Energy, South Dakota is the fifth windiest state in the country with 117,000 megawatts of wind, explained Johnson. One megawatt will provide power to between 300 and 400 homes.

“We do about 800 megawatts now,” he said. “We need to develop this asset and use it as an export (to the East Coast).”

What South Dakota does not have is a transmission line to get the wind power there, said Johnson, explaining the cost is about $1 million per mile and now they have the opportunity.

Rock Island Clean Line is building a transmission line from Chicago, Ill., to Primghar, Iowa – about 60 miles from the South Dakota border.

“If we do proceed with this (project), it’s to build a feeder line from South Dakota to O’Brien County (in Iowa),” said Johnson. “Once we get on there, it takes the power to Chicago, which links up with a big East Coast grid of about 60 million people in 13 states and Washington D.C.”

“They pay a lot more for their power than we do so it’s a great economic driver,” he said, noting each turbine costs about $2 million for infrastructure and installation. “We want to prove we can develop wind farms in eastern South Dakota and export this wind power.”

According to AWS Truewind wind maps, the best wind is in the northern half of Union County and the southern half of Lincoln County.

That’s why Dakota Power Community Wind officials met with commissioners, said Johnson, “But it depends on the reception we get here and what people think.”

Recent presentations in Lincoln County have had opposition from acreage owners, which they called “building site people.”

“Ours is a community-based company – different than most wind projects,” said Johnson, explaining in traditional wind projects only the landowners with wind turbines on their properties get the money but with Dakota Power Community Wind, the money will be split: landowners with wind turbines, 70 percent of the 4 percent royalty gross revenues; landowners who have underground cable infrastructure on their properties, 20 percent; and those who sign up to participate but their land is not selected receive 10 percent.

Johnson estimated this project will generate, using only 42 percent wind or $43 at 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour, $8,800 per turbine per year. It could be as high as $20,000 per turbine per year on a 25-year contract. The project at Campbell County is doing 53 percent wind and another company’s White Lake Project in Aurora County is doing better than that.

Using the S.D. Department of Revenue figures, Johnson projected with 1,000 megawatts of power production, the name plate tax would generate $3 per kilowatt per turbine per year or $3 million. Having wind turbines in school districts would generate $1.5 million annually for the schools; townships, $450,000 per year; and the county would get $1.2 million the first year.

Over the 25-year purchase agreement, taxes paid would be about $216 million. School districts would receive $37 million, townships, $11 million and counties, $54 million, said Johnson.

“This is about economic development,” said Johnson. “This is about fixing roads, fixing school districts. Every township, every town, every county is hurting in this state. We can all ask for more money but it comes back to what are you going to do for yourselves.”

“I’m involved because of Beresford,” said Beresford Mayor Jim Federson, noting the town is going through a tax opt out right now. “I’m interested in the jobs it’ll create and the taxes it’ll generate…I’m interested in the growth of our town and keeping our schools healthy.”

“What ethanol companies did for South Dakota, I hope wind is equal to that,” said Shubeck.

Johnson couldn’t tell commissioners where these turbines or the transmission line would be placed. He explained they needed to place “met towers” which would gather wind data for two years first. Then if they decide to pursue this, they would come to the Union County Planning & Zoning Board.

Their goal is to put 500 wind turbines, which generate 2 megawatts of power in the area. Each turbine with an access road takes 1 acre of land. They have 300 megawatts signed up but they need 500.

“It’ll be at least two years before we’ll know if this project is feasible,” said Shubeck. “Our company does the legwork for the project – the studies on birds, endangered species, environment, wind and Federal Aviation Administration. We do all that to make sure it’s a viable project.”

Dakota Power Community Wind just options the land so landowners continue to own it, and the county continues to get its property taxes. They will have land options with landowners and road agreements with county officials.

They encouraged the commissioners to let them take a bus load of people out to the White Lake Project at Wessington Springs.

“We don’t want to force this down anybody’s throats,” said Shubeck. “We want you guys to want us, and if you do want us, we want you to help us with things that will be coming up. If we work together, all benefit.”

“We have to have people who are believers like we are,” he said, “and we have to have support so that’s what we’re asking for.”

The commission appointed Chairman Milt Ustad as their Public Information Officer for economic development.

Shubeck noted they still had to ask their own shareholders if they wanted to expand into Union County.

Source:  By Julie Ann Madden | The Akron Hometowner | akronhometowner.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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