Wednesday, March 09, 2005

200 MW South Dakota Wind Farm Plans

State's largest wind farm scoped out
published: 03/7/05
COMMENTS SOUGHTCommunity members who wish to comment on the wind farm are urged to return comment cards sent out recently. Or they may call Dirk Shulund, a Navitas Energy representative, at 406-247-7402. In about one year, Navitas Energy hopes to get a green light to create the largest wind farm in the state.The Minneapolis-based company wants to build 102 wind turbines, which would generate up to 200 megawatts of energy - or enough electricity to power 130,000 homes for a year - in Brookings County near White.Before they begin, however, they must receive clearance from the Western Area Power Administration, an authorized federal agency under the Department of Energy. South Dakota ranks first in the nation in wind energy potential.Western will conduct a yearlong study of the site to determine how suitable it will be for the proposed endeavor, said Dirk Shulund, a Navitas representative. The study is done to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.The study will examine biological factors, such as migration paths for birds and its effect on wetlands. This also will allow time for a cultural survey of the land and collaboration with Native American tribes who might have an interest in the land, he said. Western also will look at the "social justice issues" associated with the building of the wind farm, such as the effect on the area's economy.One key part of the study is the ongoing community scoping period. Last week, interested members of the community met with representatives from Western, Navitas and the county in the first step of the month-long scope period."We look at comments and determine how they should be addressed," Shulund said. "The people that live there know more about it than you or I do."Recently, the Brookings County zoning office changed its zoning ordinances. Wind turbine distance from off-site residences was changed from 500 feet to 1,000 feet, said director Robert Hill. It also changed the distance from right-of-way public roads to 500 feet and the distance from any property line to 500 feet.Navitas will have to comply to these new standards when negotiating with landowners to lease space. But the go-ahead in permits will only be given by the zoning office under the condition that it is approved by Western Area Power.The wind farm is something Brookings County should be excited about, said Marcus DaCuhna, a Navitas engineer working on the project. It will be an added source of income to landowners and an extra energy resource, he said. So far, "they are very welcoming of the project to their back yards."With "a world of permits" ahead, DaCuhna said that they are doing all the necessary work to see the project through.So what would the wind farm look like?The simplified version of this intricate project begins with the construction of massive wind turbines, and in Brookings County, it would mean 102 of them. The turbines' blades turn when they catch the wind. That movement triggers an electric generator inside the turbine, creating its own independent power supply. The turbines are all attached in an underground network that collects the energy and sends it to a substation, DaCuhna said. Then it is sent to transformers where it becomes voltage and is sent as energy to homes.Each of the 102 turbines is capable of generating 2 megawatts of energy, or a total of 204 megawatts. Two of the turbines are considered a sort of back-up.