PIERRE, SD – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has granted planning permission for the Wild Springs Solar Project in Pennington County.
“It is extremely interesting and very exciting to see this type of renewable energy project develop in South Dakota,” said Gary Hanson, Chairman of PUC. “Ten to 20 years ago, solar energy wasn’t a viable option for our state because we didn’t have the right climate for it. It is exciting to see that the technology has grown and investors are ready to support a renewable energy that has very few challenges from an aesthetics or noise or the like standpoint, ”he said.
Wild Springs can now move ahead with plans to build a solar array that can generate 128 megawatts of energy south of New Underwood. The facility will comprise up to 1,499 acres of privately owned land and will include approximately 340,000 solar panels. In addition, inverters, a tracking rack system, fences, access roads, a substation, an operating and maintenance building, a parking lot, electrical collecting lines and up to three weather stations will be built as part of the project.
“This is the largest solar project in South Dakota to date. We at PUC have had a lot of experience with wind development over the past few years, but in some ways solar is different. I appreciate the efforts of the PUC staff and the applicant to help us ensure that our landowners are well protected, ”said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen.
The approved permit includes 38 conditions that must be met during construction and operation, including land restoration, potential impact on threatened and endangered species, and financial security for future decommissioning.
“The shutdown of financial security is something we’ve been looking at on various projects over the past three years. We’ve talked about a lot of different options, and so far we’ve introduced an escrow account. In part because we have never been presented with a bond in an irrevocable way. In this case, the applicant has found a way to give us confidence that the bond will stand regardless of what happens to the owner, ”said Vice Chairman Chris Nelson.
Wild Springs expects to complete construction of the $ 190 million facility by the end of 2022. Upon completion of the project, the project will be linked to the New Underwood Substation, owned by the Western Area Power Administration and located adjacent to the project area. The energy generated by the solar system is purchased from the Basin Electric Power Cooperative.