September 27, 2017
South Dakota

PUC decided on Tuesday that testimony is due Wednesday for Crocker Wind Farm docket

By Bob Mercer, Public Opinion Capitol Bureau | Watertown Public Opinion | Sep 26, 2017 |

PIERRE – State government’s regulators decided this morning (Tuesday) the first round of testimony would be due Wednesday (tomorrow/today) in the Crocker Wind Farm application.

Geronimo Energy, based in Edina, Minnesota, wants permission to build as many as 200 wind turbines in northern Clark County around the community of Crocker.

The site would be about eight miles northwest of the county seat of Clark.

“We’ve been working feverishly for 10 days,” the company’s lawyer, Brett Koenecke of Pierre, told members of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

Koenecke said the company would submit testimony before close of business Wednesday (today).

State law requires the commission complete its hearing and issue its decision within six months of receiving an application for a wind-farm permit.

Crocker applied July 25, 2017.

“This is a very, very short timeline,” Kristie Fiegen, the commission’s chairwoman, said.

Fiegen suggested the Legislature might want to further consider the six-month requirement in the 2018 session.

Commission lawyer Amanda Reiss asked for the schedule. It calls for the evidentiary hearing Dec. 11-15.

The sides have been working for two months. Commission staff gave Crocker a sixth round of data requests last week.

The project, shaped somewhat like a C or a G, would cover ground in five townships and fill a gap between Day County Wind Energy Center and Oak Tree Wind Farm.

The middle would be open around Mallard Slough and Crocker. The project also seeks commission approval for 6.5 miles of 345-kilovolt transmission line that would connect to an existing Basin Electric line.

Based on 400 megawatts of production, the company in its application said the project would provide approximately $2 million annually in lease payments to landowners over the first 20 years.

Landowners reportedly approached the company seeking development, according to the application.

The commission agreed today (Tuesday) to accept 43 interveners of 44 represented by attorney Reece Almond from the Davenport Evans law firm of Sioux Falls.

Almond said the commission needed to allow all of them if only one was a landowner.

“Certainly they’ve all shown interest,” Almond said.

The man who was left out however didn’t list his interest, according to commissioners Chris Nelson and Gary Hanson.

Hanson said the application that Nelson showed him had “a large blank space” where the interest should have been.

Nelson originally wanted to grant intervener status to 38 of the 44 but nays from Hanson and Fiegen blocked his motion.

Commission lawyer Kristin Edwards said the docket is a matter of “first impression” for wind farms regarding such requirements as setback distances and noise levels. She said it could set precedent for future wind permits anywhere in South Dakota.

“That is one consideration we have in mind,” Edwards said.

The commission held a field hearing at Clark on Sept. 13.

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