PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has approved a construction permit for the Wild Springs Solar Project in Pennington County.
“It’s extremely interesting and very exciting to see this type of renewable energy project being developed in South Dakota,” said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. “Ten to 20 years ago, solar energy wasn’t considered a viable option for our state because we didn’t have the right climate for it. It’s exciting to see that technology has grown and investors are willing to support a renewable energy that has very few challenges from the standpoint of aesthetics or noise or anything of that nature,” he stated.
Wild Springs can now move forward with their plans to construct a solar energy facility capable of generating 128 megawatts of energy just south of New Underwood. The facility will span up to 1,499 acres of privately-owned land and include approximately 340,000 solar panels. In addition, the project will also construct inverters, a tracking rack system, fencing, access roads, a substation, an operations and maintenance building, a parking lot, electrical collection lines, and up to three weather stations.
“This is South Dakota’s biggest solar project to date. We at the PUC have had a lot of experience with wind development in the last few years, but in certain regards, solar is different. I appreciate the efforts made by PUC staff and the applicant to help us ensure our landowners will be well protected,” said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen.
The approved permit will include 38 conditions that must be met during construction and operation, including land restoration, potential impacts to threatened and endangered species, and financial assurance for future decommissioning.
“Decommissioning financial assurance is something we’ve been dealing with for the last three years on various projects. We’ve talked about a lot of different options and an escrow account is the one we’ve adopted up to this point; partly because until now, we’ve never had a bond presented to us in a manner that was irrevocable. In this case, the applicant has figured out a way to give us the assurance that no matter what happens to the owner, the bond will remain in place,” stated Vice Chairman Chris Nelson.
Wild Springs expects to complete construction of the $190 million facility by the end of 2022. Upon completion, the project will be interconnected with the New Underwood Substation, owned by Western Area Power Administration, and located adjacent to the project area. The energy produced by the solar facility will be purchased by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.