AVON – About 300 people packed the bleachers shoulder to shoulder on one side of the school gym and filled dozens of folding chairs for a meeting on Aug. 24 about a project that would put as many as 100 wind turbines north of Avon.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission organized the gathering in the Bon Homme County community as part of deciding whether to award a state permit to the project, known as Prevailing Winds.
“Importantly,” Chris Nelson, the commission’s chairman, said in his opening remarks, “no decisions are being made tonight or in the near future.”
He said the purpose was to explain the project and receive public comments.
People who wanted to speak were allowed up to 10 minutes. The deadline to file for party status, which allows a person to present witnesses and evidence and to ask questions during the commission’s permit hearing, is 5 p.m. CT on Aug. 29.
Ronnie Hornstra of Avon, president of Prevailing Winds, said the community is sitting on “a very abundant” natural resource.
“The greatest thing about wind is it consumes almost nothing,” he said.
One speaker said the project would generate enough power to supply 10 rural electric cooperatives the size of Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association.
Ed Van Gerpen of Avon was the first opponent to speak. The former state legislator described the situation as “David and Goliath.”
He wore his Avon Pirates cap to show school pride, “not to be the wind capital of South Dakota,” he said. “As more wind power comes online, the additional costs will be passed on to the consumers,” he warned.
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