South Dakota PUC approves wind farm for Hyde and Hughes counties

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a siting permit for the North Bend Wind Project, a wind energy facility slated for Hyde and Hughes counties capable of generating up to 200 megawatts of energy.

North Bend Wind and PUC staff filed a settlement stipulation with the commission on Dec. 13, 2022. The agreement specified 45 conditions that must be adhered to during the construction and operation of the project. Land and road restoration, shadow flicker, noise levels, ice detection and ice throw, post-construction grouse lek monitoring and decommissioning are all among the issues the conditions address.

“It’s obvious that significant negotiations have taken place between parties to get us to this point. My concern is for landowners; to ensure that reclamation will be done properly and that things will be made whole for landowners once construction is done,” said PUC Chairman Chris Nelson. “Largely, the conditions parties have stipulated to have worked for other wind farm permits that have been issued by the PUC. It’s my belief that landowners will be protected in the issuing of this permit,” Nelson stated.

PUC Vice Chairperson Kristie Fiegen reflected the important role that PUC staff play in each siting docket brought before the commission. “Our staff take their role in protecting all landowners and citizens very seriously and I really appreciate the countless hours they work to protect the land and interests of both participants and non-participants alike. Including a condition related to aerial spraying is a great example of that dedication,” she said.

North Bend Wind, LLC filed its application with the commission on June 23, 2021, starting the clock on a statutory nine-month review period that included a public input meeting held in Pierre in August 2021. In both November 2021 and February 2022, the company filed requests to extend the deadline for a commission decision, thereby extending the PUC’s review period.

Intervenors participating in the North Bend Wind docket included Judi Bollweg, individually and on behalf of the Tumbleweed Lodge and Bollweg Family, LLLP, and Michael Bollweg, individually and on behalf of Bollweg Family, LLLP. The commission granted their intervention in September 2021 and granted their request to withdraw from the docket at this week’s meeting.

“It is nearly always to the benefit of intervenors when parties negotiate and resolve issues prior to the commission making a final decision. Those negotiations not only allowed the intervenors to withdraw today, but also eliminated the need for a hearing in this docket saving a great deal of time and resources,” stated Commissioner Gary Hanson.

The project will include up to 71 wind turbines and will span approximately 46,931 acres of land in Hyde and Hughes counties. Other components of the project will include access roads and associated facilities, underground 34.5-kilovolt electrical collector lines, underground fiber-optic cable, a 34.5-kV to 230-kV collection substation, a 230-kV interconnection switching station, an aircraft detection lighting system and one permanent meteorological tower.

North Bend Wind estimates construction of the wind farm will cost $265 million to $285 million. The project will interconnect to Western Area Power Administration’s Fort Thompson-Oahe 230-kV transmission line, which crosses the southern portion of the project area. The project is owned by ENGIE North America and is anticipated to be operational in late 2023. Basin Electric Power Cooperative will purchase the power produced by the wind project.