AVON – Even before their first public investor meeting, Prevailing Winds officials had raised more than $1 million for a proposed wind farm in Bon Homme and Charles Mix counties.
Prevailing Winds vice president Nick Sershen of Sioux Falls said Tuesday the organization had already surpassed its minimum investment level for launching the project. He made the announcement during an investor meeting in Avon, the first of a dozen meetings in southeast and south-central South Dakota.
“We need to raise $700,000 to $2.5 million, and we’ve raised over $1 million so far,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and people are willing to invest. It’s a saleable project.”
The initial $1 million was raised during private meetings with potential investors, according to Prevailing Winds manager Steve Sershen of Sioux Falls. The project was now moving to the public investor meetings, he said.
The Avon meeting drew only four persons besides company officials and the Press & Dakotan. However, the four Prevailing Winds officers on hand indicated they weren’t necessarily surprised at the low turnout. They spoke of the previous meetings already held in the area.
The Prevailing Winds project, if constructed, would generate more than $100 million in economic benefits, according to company officials. The project would use less than 80 acres of land and would produce economic benefits for local landowners, local communities and the state, the promoters said.
The Prevailing Winds project looks to generate up to 200 megawatts of power, Nick Sershen said. The promoters are looking at a site 300-350 feet above the Coteau Creek, south of the current Beethoven wind farm purchased by NorthWestern Energy. The site lies in the Tripp-Avon area.
The site provides excellent wind readings, he said.
“If you’re in an area where there is a lot of wind, it’s where you should put the wind turbines,” he said. “Here in South Dakota, this is one of those great locations.”
Nick Sershen spoke to the audience about the risks of investing and the possible rate of return. The project can accept only South Dakota investors.
The project stands to generate a great deal of interest from companies looking for stable, dependable long-term energy sources, Nick Sershen said.
“In 2014, half of all power purchase agreements were by companies,” he said. “They want to hedge their power costs. With projects like this, they know their power costs for the next 25 years.”
Nick Sershen described the five-year data showing the dependable wind supply of the proposed site. The wind power meets the demand for green, renewable and sustainable energy, he said.
“Wind is the cheapest power source. The fuel is free,” he said.
The project joined the Southwest Power Pool this month and will enter a transmission study next week, he said.
A PROJECT PROFILE
A company hand-out provided a profile of the project.
The turbine manufacturer and model has not been chosen, but the manufacturer of the wind turbines will likely be GE or Vestas. wrote. Both projects would purchase station power for the turbines, substation, operations and maintenance building from two local rural electric cooperatives in a portion of their service territories where customers are decreasing and cost to main the system continues to increase.
Wind energy projects 100 megawatts or greater are permitted by the South Dakota PUC, and projects less than 100 megawatts are permitted at the county level.
Prevailing Winds will apply for a wind energy facility permit with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), company organizers said. The process will include public hearings and public input meetings. In addition, the county may want to apply for party status, and the county can also comment during comment periods.
The project partners include Mnioka Construction and Value Added Service, which hold experience in wind energy projects, the Sershens said.
The Sershens responded to criticisms and concerns involving the proposed project. They said the project is totally separate from the neighboring Beethoven project and will undergo PUC hearings and other scrutiny.
In response to an audience comment, they said average monthly consumer energy bills look to go down with NorthWestern Energy’s purchase of the Beethoven project. The impact to a residential customer using 750 kilowatt-hours (kwh) per month is a bill reduction of $5.75, they said.
They also addressed environmental and noise concerns, using a noise meter for comparison of decibel levels.
The Prevailing Winds organizers said they would fall under a new Bon Homme County wind energy ordinance, if enacted by the County Commission later this month.
“We’re comfortable as it’s written,” Steve Sershen said.
He also responded to concerns that the new wind project could be purchased by foreign investors.
“As far as possible foreign ownership or the number of times (Beethoven) was sold, why is it important?” he asked. “If (opponents) would sit down and explain why foreign investment is such a bad thing, I could deal with it.”
Foreign investment already plays an important part of the American economy, including agriculture, he said.
“If you have a Honda distribution center a couple of miles from town, it would benefit the economy,” he said. “You would think it’s a great deal because it brings new dollars into town.”
If Prevailing Winds doesn’t move forward with wind energy, other companies, other states and other nations will seize the opportunity, Steve Sershen said.
“What other industry can we bring to our area that does as much as wind energy does?” he asked.
Another investor meeting was scheduled Tuesday night in Menno.
Future area meetings are set for 7 p.m. today (Wednesday) the American Legion Hall in Wagner; 2 p.m. Thursday at the Pony Creek Steakhouse in Parkston; 2 p.m. Oct. 13 at Minerva’s Conference Center in Yankton; and 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Holiday Inn in Vermillion.
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