AVON – A proposed wind farm near Avon, which was tabled in September, could yet take off with a different look.
Prevailing Winds filed a notice with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commision in December showing interest in developing 13 different wind farms in Bon Homme and Charles Mix counties, according to Project Manager Roland Jurgens. The notice comes after Prevailing Winds withdrew its application to build a 201-megawatt wind farm north of Avon on Sept. 13.
“It’s a step. We’ll see if it’s forward or not. It might be sideways,” Jurgens said.
However, the new proposal still may not be the finished product. Jurgens said Prevailing Winds is discussing options with local electric cooperatives, the expected buyers of energy produced by the wind towers, to see what works best for them.
If the 13-farm plan goes through, each wind farm would operate as its own legal entity as a subsidiary of Prevailing Winds, but Jurgens said the total size would not be much larger. In fact, thanks to continual developments in wind farm technology, he said the company may install half as many turbines as expected. With each turbine producing about 3 Mw, the wind farms could require about 67 turbines.
“Right now, it’s extremely likely that we would put in half the number of turbines that we thought we were going to put in two years ago,” Jurgens said.
Even with fewer turbines, Jurgens still expects the project to fall in the 200 Mw range, and he believes the project will cost between $200 and $250 million.
Instead of producing all the energy from a single wind farm, the divided farms can produce smaller amounts to sell to energy cooperatives. The new offer was made under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, enacted Nov. 9, 1978, to promote energy conservation and greater use of domestic and renewable energy.
While discussions continue, Jurgens hopes to begin construction within the next four years.
“Developing a wind energy project is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said in a written statement.
Because cooperatives are not governed by the PUC, Prevailing Winds doesn’t need the PUC to approve the project as it stands now, Jurgens said. Still, the company was required to notify the PUC of the project. It will also need to receive a PUC site permit before building, and requirements could change as plans develop.
But Jurgens hopes to get community buy-in before proceeding. Prevailing Winds attended numerous community meetings to discuss the project, where several people from around the area opposed the project for financial, aesthetic and health reasons.
A concern over splitting the community was one factor behind Prevailing Winds’ decision to withdraw its application in September, and Jurgens said there will be more community meetings when the plans become more developed.
“Right now, what we’d be doing is trying to look into a cloudy crystal ball and telling people what’s going to happen. We’re just not there yet,” Jurgens said. “We want as many people behind it as we possibly can.”
Despite the September setback, Jurgens said all of the company’s 160 South Dakota-based investors are still committed to the project.
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