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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Iberdrola Planning 350-Megawatt Wind Farm for Lake, McCook, Minnehaha

Orland School marker, 451st and 241st, SDOrland Township: soon to be home to the biggest wind farm in South Dakota?
When Heartland and its big-dreaming utility pals failed to get investors to back their coal-fired Big Stone II power plant, Governor Rounds said the loss of the new coal plant was a loss for wind power. The gloom and doom from the right made it sound as if we environmentalists would be typing our blog posts by candlelight for the foreseeable future.

So didn't Iberdrola get the memo that wind power is dead without Big Stone II? They are Spanish: maybe they missed the translation. All they seem to hear is ¡En Dakota hay mucho viento! ¡Mucho, mucho viento! ¡Arriba!

Crazy Spaniards. So crazy that they want to build the biggest wind farm in the state, 350 megawatts, part of it right here in Lake County. So says the lead story in Friday's print MDL. Iberdrola already operates MinnDakota and Buffalo Ridge I in Brookings County, wind farms with 54 and 50.4 megawatt capacities, respectively. Iberdrola expects to finish Buffalo Ridge II, a 210-megawatt project in Brookings and Deuel counties that by the end of this year will be the biggest wind farm in the state. Iberdrola has proposed another 170 megawatts of wind power with Buffalo Ridge III.

Iberdrola plans to hook into transmission to the south, probably these big lines about ten miles to the south that run from the Big Bend Dam and slant ESE across McCook and Minnehaha counties to Sioux Falls.
The proposal announced Friday, called the Minnehaha West Wind Project, would stretch across two Lake County townships, three in McCook, and three in Minnehaha. Iberdrola is talking with landowners in Lake County's Orland and Franklin townships, just four miles south of Madison. The landowners, I'm sure, are bound by super-secret non-disclosure agreements—that's why none are quoted in Elisa Sand's Friday report and why we don't get any more specific about sites than township. (Remember, farmers: go for the lease, not the one-time payment!)

These power lines running north to Madison through Frankling and Lakeview townships just got upgraded this past year. Maybe Iberdrola will let us hook in and juice up Madison and the lakes with some clean wind power?
But just four miles south of Madison. That's funny: Mayor Hexom told me last October that Lake County isn't an appealing place to build wind farms, since our wind potential is lower than other places in South Dakota, like Wessington Springs where Heartland is involved in a 51-megawatt wind farm. Now Iberdrola's going to bring almost seven times that clean generating capacity right to Madison's doorstep. Looks like Lake County can compete in the wind market after all. Or the Spaniards are just crazy.

Let's see... Iberdrola told the press last week that their projects so far have generated or supported over 1700 temporary jobs and created 64 permanent jobs in South Dakota alone. Building perhaps 175 wind turbines just ten miles south of my house should keep a lot of folks busy... and send a lot of workers to Buffalo Trading Post, Montrose, Colton, and Chester for lunch. Fire up the grill, Aunt Virginia!

Rural water tower near the Orland Hutterite colony, McCook County, SDThe rural water tower near the Orland Hutterite colony, just east of the Vermillion River, could get some spinning company on the horizon.
As I review the numbers, I see South Dakota has 413 megawatts of wind power installed, another 300 megawatts under construction. (See this map of South Dakota wind projects from last fall.) Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson tells Elisa Sand that by Christmas, we'll have enough wind capacity to power half the homes in South Dakota. (Yes, Mike, I know, wind doesn't blow all the time, so divide by two.) Dakota Wind has applied for 300 megawatts of the transmission intended for Big Stone II. Moody County may attract a 100-megawatt project. And the South Dakota Wind Energy Association is looking into developing another 1000 megawatts (that's a gigawatt!) of South Dakota wind energy.

Boy, if this is wind power growth when it's stymied, I can't imagine what full-throttle wind power growth looks like.
Valley Road, McCook County, SDThe Vermillion River Valley, home of the nicest curvy road in the tri-county area, could add some wind turbines to its scenery.


  1. Let's do this, and more!

    What's holding us back? Found an interesting link this morning:


    South Dakota's doing pretty well overall relative to the rest of the country. Our major strengths appear to exist in "cost of business," "economy," and "business friendliness." However, in terms of "technology and innovation" and "access to capital," we have a ways to go.

    I wonder what on earth they mean by "access to capital"? Surely they must have in mind some sources other than the public sector.

  2. I think what they mean by "access to capital", is that the banks are still willing to lend money since they weren't as adversely affected by the housing debacle and the wild market swings that you see on the coasts.

    In fact, I thought I saw on CNBC where there were big banks on the coasts that were borrowing or wanting to borrow from Midwestern banks because of their stability during this economic downturn.

  3. Great story, inspirational!! I had to post it to facebook - someone from up in Big Stone County (MN) sent it to me via email, knowing that I (we) so wanted 'wind' power instead of more coal!! Thanks for the updates post BSII. This is great news. Mary Jo Stueve


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