A wind facility can continue building in northeastern South Dakota this winter. But it now faces more conditions from state government’s permitting agency.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday to give a temporary waiver to NextEra Energy for the Crowned Ridge Wind facility in Grant and Codington counties.
NextEra wanted the waiver because crews had installed noise-reduction devices on only eight of 87 units before cold weather shut down work.
Temperatures need to stay at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the attachments to be glued onto the blades. The company meanwhile faces the potential of a $75,000 daily penalty from Xcel Energy, who’s buying the electricity, because the project wasn’t running by January 1.
Commissioners set a September 15 deadline for NextEra to finish installing the noise reducers. Commissioners also decided that, in the meantime, NextEra must shut down 16 turbines whenever wind speed exceeds six meters per second.
NextEra had wanted to shut off four.
Commissioners further required Tuesday that a sound standard will be enforced at a lower level than what their staff’s consultant recommended. The company also agreed to conduct two more rounds of sound testing.
Intervenors Kristi Mogen, Amber Christenson and Allen Robish, who all live in the project area, wanted the commission to deny the waiver.
Commission chairman Gary Hanson wound up opposing it. He told NextEra officials they had strained his confidence and said he was “amazed” by additional information the intervenors had presented since the company asked for the waiver December 13.
“They’re going to be affected by this project the rest of their lives,” Hanson said. He warned, “This is probably going to affect future applicants when they come forward.”
Commissioner Chris Nelson, who also ranches, called for the additional restrictions, including monthly reports starting April 1. “I fully acknowledge there may be some things in here that folks weren’t expecting,” he said.
Nelson said the company hadn’t denied it “screwed up.” He disagreed with the sound consultant who said an annual average would suffice. Snowdrifts don’t absorb noise, Nelson said: “There’s different types of snow and different effects.”
Commissioner Kristie Fiegen tried to soften some of Nelson’s conditions. Nelson agreed with her on giving the company six more weeks on the deadline.
Fiegen also suggested replacing more of Nelson’s conditions. She wanted to accept the company’s offer to shut down four turbines rather than the 16 Nelson proposed, and to accept the sound consultant’s recommendation of a year-round average rather than Nelson’s lower one.
Nelson held his ground, saying the modeling indicated 16 turbines needed to be stopped at the lower standard he wanted. Fiegen lost her motion as Hanson and Nelson opposed those changes.
Hanson said most of the intervenors’ latest complaints would be handled separately because those didn’t directly connect to the waiver.
“That spear has to be carried to a different discussion, a different process than we have here right now,” Hanson said. “We’re dealing with two different things here.”
Replied Christenson: “We need to find out what we have going on in that project, because at this point we don’t know.”
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