South Dakota PUC approves construction permit for Sweetland Wind Farm

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
Farm Forum

PIERRE — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has approved the construction permit for Sweetland Wind Farm, a wind energy facility capable of producing approximately 200 megawatts of energy near Miller, S.D. The company expects to complete the $240 million facility and begin operations by Dec. 31, 2020. However, Sweetland stated that construction will not commence until the company finds a buyer for the electricity generated by the wind farm.

The commission discussed and voted on 45 conditions to be imposed on the permit at the PUC’s regular meeting in Pierre on July 25. Aircraft detection lighting, avian and bat mortality, land restoration, decommissioning, noise level and shadow flicker are among the issues addressed in the conditions. A specific setback requirement for the land of intervenor Theresa Lichty, established through negotiations between Lichty and the company, was also included.

The Sweetland Wind Farm project will span a 20,979-acre area in Hand County and include up to 71 wind turbines. Other components of the project will include a 5-mile, 230-kV generation tie-in transmission facility, access roads, an operations and maintenance facility, up to four meteorological towers, underground 34.5-kV electrical collector lines, underground fiber optic cable, a collection substation, a switchyard and additional temporary construction areas.

“The swiftness of this wind docket is abnormal,” commented PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. “Usually meeting the six-month deadline, especially with so many wind farm dockets before us, is challenging. Each issue and concern must be explored in the interest of protecting consumers and the citizens of South Dakota. The absence of opposition, strong local support and community’s experience with wind farms are reflected in the swiftness of this proceeding,” he said.

Vice Chairman Chris Nelson stated: “We began on a pretty rocky road with this particular wind farm and fortunately we’ve been able to move past that. The applicant was willing to work directly with a concerned intervenor to resolve issues as opposed to going through a hearing process. Both the company and intervenor Theresa Lichty should be commended for their participation and willingness to work together.”

“The Sweetland project is the beneficiary of community support. Concerns expressed were generally resolved by Sweetland, an intervenor and PUC staff without the need for a lengthy hearing process. I am pleased to note the standards set to address public interest concerns in other siting dockets are also prevalent in our approval of this siting docket,” said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen.

Sweetland Wind Farm filed its application with the PUC on March 6, 2019. At the time, state law required the commission to make a decision within six months of receiving a wind energy facility application. A public input meeting was held in Miller in April. Parties to the docket included Sweetland, PUC staff and Intervenor Theresa Lichty. On July 11, 2019, a settlement agreement between the applicant and Lichty was approved by the commission and the terms of that agreement were incorporated in the conditions of the permit.

The Sweetland Wind Farm docket can be viewed on the PUC’s website at www.puc.sd.gov, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2019 Electric Dockets, EL19-012 — In the Matter of the Application by Sweetland Wind Farm, LLC for Facility Permits for a Wind Energy Facility and a 230-kV Transmission Facility in Hand County, South Dakota for the Sweetland Wind Farm Project.