Dakota Range gets state approval for Watertown wind farm project

By Bob Mercer
Farm Forum Correspondent

PIERRE — Developers received state government’s approval Tuesday to construct the Dakota Range wind project in Grant and Codington counties.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission agreed to issue a construction permit.

The project would have up to 72 turbines and cost an estimated $380 million. State laws establish requirements for wind electricity generation.

“I believe the project has met that burden,” Commissioner Chris Nelson said.

Steve Kolbeck, the South Dakota manager for Xcel Energy and a former commission member, watched from the near the rear of the room.

Xcel gave notice June 21 the company would buy the project.

One of the permit conditions Tuesday was limiting turbine sites to moving at most 250 feet without commission approval. Commissioner Gary Hanson suggested it. The original proposal was 325 feet.

“It means the commission gets to look at your shift,” Chairwoman Kristie Fiegen said.

Nelson opposed the change.

“When you’re building stuff, you’ve got to have flexibility,” he said.

Interveners made final five-minute arguments against the project.

“Codington and Grant counties will be changed forever,” Teresa Kaaz of rural South Shore told commissioners.

Kaaz said the commission kept data confidential at the developer’s request.

“I live amongst the turbines. I should have the right to see the information,” she said.

The other intervener, Kristi Mogen of rural Twin Brooks, said the commission didn’t consider ice she said could be thrown from turbine blades.

“This is a 747 (jet) with an unbalanced wing,” she said.

Mollie Smith, a Minneapolis lawyer representing Dakota Range, acknowledged notice wasn’t provided to James Waldron, who purchased nine acres from another landowner.

Smith said mailings were passed along to Waldron.

“We do know the landowner is aware of the project,” she said.

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