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Meade County Commission turn thumbs down to wind farm

STURGIS – It didn’t take Meade County commissioners long at all Tuesday to tell an out-of-state developer they didn’t want a wind farm in eastern Meade County.

Scott Debenham, president of Debenham Energy of San Diego, Calif., had asked to be included on the commission meeting agenda for its Tuesday meeting. Debenham, speaking to the commission via phone, explained that the government is beginning to open Forest Service land for alternative energy development.

He told commissioners he was seeking a letter of support from them for the development of wind and/or solar energy on land managed by the US Forest Service on the Black Hills National Forest in eastern Meade County.

Debenham said the first step in the process is to determine the viability of such a project. Debenham Energy’s job includes site evaluation, equipment selection, and recommendations on alternatives for procurement, financing, installation, operations and maintenance, and ownership of wind or solar energy projects.

Meade County Commission Chairman Ted Seaman asked Debenham point-blank if his company was looking at putting a large wind farm on a tall ridge to the west of Interstate-90 for all traveling the interstate between Sturgis and Rapid City to see.

Debenham said they were looking at several locations, so could not say that the ridge Seaman spoke of was their first choice. Debenham confirmed that when placing a wind farm in an area they would want to get the turbines as high as possible, but also consider where the best wind speeds could be found.

“We’re trying to find places that have the least impact,” he added.

Debenham shared that wind or solar energy could replace dependence on oil or coal and pointed to California as an example.

“The last state in the country I want to emulate as far as energy is California. I am not going to vote for this proposal,” Commissioner Doreen Creed told Debenham.

Seaman also said a wind farm would be a tough sell for the people of Meade County.

“I would be very surprised if the people in this community would be in favor of a large wind farm on the National Forest Service land, visible by everyone driving down Piedmont Valley,” Seaman said.

Commissioner Rich Liggett and Talbot Wieczorek also told Debenham they wouldn’t support the project. Commissioner Rod Bradley did not weigh in on the topic during the conversation with Debenham

“It doesn’t look like you would be able to get support for this from this commission for a wind farm up in that area,” Seaman said.

The commission took no action on the matter.

Debenham said the company may look further east to areas that may be compatible.