Nearly 60 wind turbines in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties are now operational, but the builders of the almost $320 million wind farm are asking South Dakota officials to delay sound compliance requirements due to coronavirus.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will consider the request from Prevailing Wind Park in a teleconference meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Attorney Lisa Agrimonti, of Fredrikson and Byron law firm in Minneapolis, is representing the wind farm. Agrimonti wrote the PUC earlier this month requesting that Prevailing Wind Park receive an exception to meeting the sound level requirements because of the pandemic and the travel restrictions and safety concerns to bring in out-of-state acoustician from Oregon to perform sound level testing.
“It is unknown when COVID-19 related restrictions and concerns will be eased, making it impracticable to establish a schedule for monitoring and safely coordinate with landowners at this time,” Agrimonti wrote.
The testing is set to take place at the residences of the seven intervenors who participated in the PUC’s permitting process in 2018 and 2019. The PUC’s expert acoustician lives in Utah, which is also under a stay-at-home directive.
Prevailing Wind Park is asking for the compliance period to be delayed until travel restrictions related to the pandemic are eased, and to extend the compliance period to 120 days, up from 60 days as agreed to when the PUC granted the permit in November 2018.
“Prevailing Wind Park believes that delaying the time to commence the sound level measurements and extending the time for performing the measurements from 60 days to 120 days is in the best safety interests of the acousticians, the intervenors whose sound levels are to be measured, and the communities into which the out-of-state acousticians must travel to perform the sound level measurements,” Agrimonti said.
In documents filed with state and county governments, SPower said noise from wind turbines would not exceed 43 A-weighted decibels at non-participating residences, and 45 decibels at participating residences, unless a signed waiver was agreed to.
In an April 23 letter to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, SPower’s general counsel Sean McBride said that all 57 project turbines have been commissioned and have been turned over to the company’s operations personnel.
The turbines – which are as tall as 590 feet from the ground to the top of the turbines – are located on 50,000 acres of land between the towns of Avon, Tripp and Wagner, and owned by SPower, a privately held company in Utah. It was drafted by a local development group called Prevailing Wind, LLC, in 2017, which sold the project to SPower.
The project was proposed in 2018 to the PUC has a 61-turbine, $297 million project, but the company said in 2019 that the cost had climbed to $319 million as it was closing on debt financing and a tax equity commitment. It will sell the power to Basin Electric Power Cooperative, based in North Dakota, which provides wholesale power to more than 140 co-ops and 3 million consumers in nine Midwestern and Mountain states. The wind farm is supposed to generate enough electricity to meet the demand of up to 90,000 local households.
SPower has said the project will generate 218 megawatts of power, and the project included 27 miles of interconnecting lines to the Western Area Power Administration’s Utica Junction substation.
Prevailing Wind, LLC also brought forward the 80-megawatt, 43-turbine Beethoven Wind project, which was built nearby in 2015 and was eventually sold to NorthWestern Energy for $143 million from German company BayWa.