The only wind Apex Clean Energy officials are feeling thus far in northeast South Dakota are the prairie breezes that would spin the proposed Dakota Range Wind project turbines.
David Lau, DRW project manager, said there has been “very, very light” opposition to the Apex Clean Energy project that ACE officials hope will be generating power by 2021.
Lau claimed the number, height and exact placement of the towers has not yet been decided. The project could eventually include two phases with each phase having the potential of generating 300 megawatts of power.
Next Tuesday, Lau will update the Codington County Commissioners, who have been impressed by ACE’s forthrightness in previous dealings with the commission and the Codington County Planning Commission.
“The thing I appreciated the most was they had met with property owners of potential turbine sites and with the adjacent land owners as well,” said commission chairman Myron Johnson.
“They had really done their homework. So when it came time for the public hearing most of the questions had been answered. That really makes a lot of difference when you’ve got good communication. That’s the key right there.”
Lau acknowledged the project is still a long way from approval, but thus far the animosity directed toward nearby proposed projects in Deuel and Clark Counties has not been aimed at Dakota Range Wind.
“A lot of people have questions and concerns, and the best way to address them is to get in front of the people, either at public meetings or at their kitchen table,” Lau said. “That’s what we’ve done. We’ve appeased a lot of groups and individuals. We try to educate them up front.”
ACE is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., but the project’s website, dakotarangewind.com, lists an office in Summit. Mark Mauersberger, who appeared before county commissioners last February, is listed as the development manager and Lau and Patrick Adams are the project managers.
Johnson said the commissioners were shown a map that included 48 towers in the project’s first phase, DR1 and DR2, in Codington and Grant Counties. Lau said DR3 and DR4 would follow if all goes well with the first phase.
Xcel Energy out of Minneapolis announced Sept. 27 that it will buy the electricity DRW produces. Lau said the original start-up date of 2019 was moved to 2021 to allow Xcel to upgrade its equipment.
DRW’s power will access the grid via the Big Stone City to Ellendale transmission line that’s now under construction. That line is being developed by Otter Tail Power Company and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and will also be utilized by the coal-fired Big Stone Power Plant near Big Stone City.
Lau said ACE will go in front of the S.D. Public Utilities Commission in November and that the project’s permitting process could start in January. It will then be at least six months before the PUC makes a decision on the project.
Lau thinks opposition to the project may increase once it’s officially brought before the PUC.
“We’re out there pretty loud right now and that’s going to bring more groups in to see what we’ve got going on,” he said.
Codington County has given DRW its conditional use permit. Luke Muller, county zoning officer, said towers must be at least 1,000 feet from any non-participating household and sounds from the turbines must not exceed 50 decibels at the property line on which any residence sits.
The setback distances have been the issue in the Crocker Wind Farm project in Clark County. Lau again said that ACE is trying to appease the people who will be near a tower.
“Without the landowners, the neighbors and the community, how are you going to get a project up and running?” he said. “It’s their land. We have to honor that.”
Opponents have stated that the wind industry wouldn’t exist without the Product Tax Credits, which are currently in place through 2021.
Lau admitted that the tax credits do play a part in a project’s success but said DRW’s startup date means ACE will be getting only a slice of the current tax credit. There is no guarantee it will be continued after it expires.
“They’re (ACE) willing to lose some of that to get it (the project) into production when they want to,” said Lau, who also pointed out that other methods of energy production also receive tax credits.
“I don’t think it’s crucial to the life of the industry, and we’re not any different than other energy producers. The Big Stone Power Plant is also being subsidized.”
DRW lists its Summit office’s contact info as 605-610-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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