AVON – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted Tuesday a wind company’s request to pull its state permit application for a proposed wind farm near Avon.
PUC chairman Chris Nelson said the three-member panel – Kristie Fiegen, Gary Hanson and himself – unanimously approved Prevailing Winds’ request. The project would construct 100 turbines covering 36,000 acres in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties.
The proposed 201-megawatt wind farm would generate up to 860,000 megawatt-hours annually of electric power. Prevailing Winds would need a state permit because it contains a production capacity of more than 100 megawatts.
However, Tuesday’s PUC decision doesn’t mean the project is dead.
Prevailing Winds investors had asked to withdraw the application without prejudice. The legal motion meant the project could still seek a state permit without a loss of rights or privileges.
Project manager Roland Jurgens told a reporter the proposed wind farm doesn’t intend to reduce the size of is operation to avoid the need for a state permit.
In order to gather more information, the Bon Homme County zoning board has asked Jurgens to attend its Sept. 19 meeting at the Tyndall courthouse. The zoning board would need to give its approval for the wind farm’s construction.
Jurgens has agreed to appear, but he hasn’t been assigned to a specific time on the agenda, said Bon Homme County Zoning Administrator Eric Elsberry.
“The zoning board wants to ask Roland questions about the wind farm and what (Prevailing Winds investors) are planning,” Elsberry said.
The Sept. 19 meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the commissioners’ room of the Bon Homme County Courthouse in Tyndall, Elsberry said. The meeting is open to the public.
If built, the Prevailing Winds farm would be located near the existing Beethoven wind farm in the Tripp-Avon area.
Prevailing Winds’ motion to withdraw its state permit application cites misinformation surrounding the project. The organizers say they plan “to better inform the community on the wind project and allow Prevailing Winds to revisit its options regarding the project.”
Prevailing Winds’ motion to withdraw its application came a week after a PUC hearing in Avon which drew around 300 people. The four-hour meeting revealed sharp division among audience members, including opposition from neighbors.
In addition, above six dozen individuals and organizations sought status as intervenors in the permitting process. As intervenors, they would hold special rights for participating in the process.
Should Prevailing Winds resurrect its permit application, the PUC may schedule a formal evidentiary hearing. At that time, the PUC would consider any issues raised by any intervening party, PUC staff or the PUC members themselves.
At the formal hearing, all parties have the opportunity to appear before the PUC, present evidence, cross-examine the other parties’ witnesses and to exercise all other rights.
However, Prevailing Winds has decided to take another look at its operation, for now.
At the PUC public input meeting in Avon, Prevailing Winds president Ronnie Hornstra of Avon provided opening remarks. His introduction was followed by Jurgens’ presentation about the proposed wind farm.
Prevailing Winds would generate enough power annually to meet the current needs of 10 rural electric cooperatives the size of Bon Homme Yankton Electric, Jurgens said.
The floor was opened up to public comments during the remainder of the meeting.
Supporters cited what they considered the abundant wind resources at the site. They noted the project’s benefits in terms of green energy, economic development and increased tax revenues, particularly for school districts which contain the wind turbines.
Opponents questioned the amount of tax revenue, particularly what the schools would receive. They also argued the project would be harmful in terms of the health of area residents, the environment, aesthetics and quality of life. In addition, they questioned whether project costs would be passed along to consumers.
For more information on the PUC process, visit online at puc.sd.gov.
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