A local group of Spink County residents pitched their idea to create a solar farm near Tulare.
Spink County Commissioner Dave Albrecht said a group under the entity Tulare Energy, LLC, presented the idea at the June 4 commission meeting in Redfield.
“It’s going to take about 400 acres for the panels, then they’re going to use ion lithium batteries for the energy storage,” Albrecht said, adding that the mood in the meeting room remained positive throughout the hour long presentation.
“This kind of stuff doesn’t come in front of the county commission that often. The county hasn’t dealt with solar energy farming before, but we intend to get things done right the first time,” Albrecht said.
Spink County residents Steve Masat and Bruce Blume are listed as the organizers of Tulare Energy, LLC, according to documents on the South Dakota Secretary of State website. Masat declined comment at this time.
Albrecht said the group discussed Crandon and Tulare townships as the possible location for the solar farm.
Spink County Zoning Administrator Jamie Wagner-Lutter said from the information presented at the meeting, the proposed solar farm will generate around 60 megawatts of electricity.
While no application has been received by her office yet, Wagner-Lutter said the commissioners would have to approve a conditional use permit for the farm for the project to move forward.
“They haven’t even applied yet they just gave us a little information,” Wagner-Lutter said.
The state Public Utilities Commission regulates any solar and energy facilities that generate 100 megawatts or more.
Public Utilities Commission Gary Hanson said that an applicant of a solar farm that generates 100 megawatts or more first has to prove they will comply with all the laws and rules that are applicable to the solar facility.
“It cannot pose a threat of serious injury to the environment or to the social and economic condition of the habitants or expected inhabitants. That’s where a lot of the meat meets the bone so to speak. A lot of folks are concerned about the social and economic condition. We certainly have folks concerned with the environment,” Hanson said.
“The applicant has to prove that the solar facility will not substantially impair the health, safety or welfare of the inhabitants. The last one is that it may not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region. In the fourth and second one, we are required to give consideration to the views of the governing bodies of the area that is affected,” he added.
Hanson said that to date, the state Public Utilities Commission has only had one application for a solar farm in Hot Springs and the board is in the process making a decision.
“We are required within the nine month period to make a decision. We can either grant the applicant as it’s presented or we can deny it. Or we can grant it with conditions. We’ve never granted one without having conditions to it. Some of the conditions are quite lengthy,” Hanson said.