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In a twist, S.D. regulators grant more time for wind project’s electricity line

State regulators made a bit of history Tuesday, when for the first time they granted more time to a wind farm proposed in northeastern South Dakota.

Officials for the Flying Cow project planned in Deuel County want to finish arrangements for a high-voltage line that would carry away the electricity generated there.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission agreed to the request because of a recent change in ownership of the project.

The previous owner was a wholly owned subsidiary of Roaring Fork Wind. It applied October 24, 2018, to the commission for a permit to locate and construct a 10-mile transmission line.

The commission had one year to decide.

The commission received notice May 13 that Avangrid Renewables had acquired the project.

Kara Semmler, a Pierre attorney representing the project, asked in a July 31 letter for the commission to extend the decision deadline by six months.

Brett Koenecke, another Pierre attorney from the same May Adam firm, went to the commission meeting Tuesday to answer questions.

Koenecke was one of the lobbyists during the 2018 and ’19 legislative sessions who fought to limit the commission’s ability to extend the time for a wind project permit.

The commission wanted one year. The wind industry wanted to keep the law at six months. They agreed at nine months.

As part of the deal, the Legislature also agreed to add language allowing the commission, upon the request of the applicant, to extend the one-year time limit for power lines and the nine months for wind and solar projects.

Koenecke’s comments Tuesday sounded as though the project wasn’t certain. That caught the attention of commission staff attorney Amanda Reiss.

“We were under the understanding the line would proceed,” Reiss said.

Koenecke corrected himself, somewhat. “As of right now, they do plan to proceed with the process in this matter,” he said.