PIERRE – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a construction permit for the Crowned Ridge Wind II Project, a 301-megawatt wind energy facility to be constructed in Codington, Deuel and Grant counties. The action by the commission was taken during its regularly scheduled meeting, March 17.
PUC staff and Crowned Ridge presented nearly 50 proposed conditions that addressed issues including shadow flicker, ice throw, land restoration, the hiring of a public liaison officer, and decommissioning. Commissioners delved into a lengthy discussion on those and other issues, making changes to proposed conditions and adding new conditions. Some proposed conditions that were changed and added relate to aircraft detection lighting systems, cooperation with agricultural spray applicators, monitoring sound pressure levels, avian and bat mortality monitoring, and monitoring for whooping cranes.
Several of the conditions commissioners imposed were the result of testimony given during a three-day evidentiary hearing held in early February. Intervenors Amber Christenson, Allen Robish and attorney A.J. Swanson, representing Gary Ehlebracht, Steven and Mary Greber, Richard and Amy Rall and Laretta Kranz, actively participated in the hearing, presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses alongside PUC staff and the applicant. Intervenor Kristi Mogen was active throughout other portions of the docket.
“Intervenors did a great job working through a process that many past intervenors have found hard to navigate,” said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. “We certainly must protect citizens and we have to follow the law. In this docket, I believe we did as much as our authority allows to set conditions that protect landowners this project will affect,” he continued.
Crowned Ridge Wind II plans to construct up to 132 wind turbines and will span approximately 60,996 acres east of Watertown. Currently, the project is expected to be constructed in two phases. The first phase consists of 200 MWs, which the company expects to construct in 2020 and has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Xcel Energy to sell to Xcel upon commercial operation. The second phase may consist of 100 MWs and is awaiting transmission interconnection study results. The total cost of the project is $425 million.
“I believe that through the hearing and the evidence that has been presented, the applicant has shown that they are entitled to this permit by law. I believe that the conditions we’ve put together properly address concerns and will also protect South Dakotans,” stated Vice Chairman Chris Nelson.
The proposed project will interconnect to the electric grid at the Big Stone South 230-kV substation using the Crowned Ridge II 5-mile, 230-kV transmission line and the Crowned Ridge 34-mile generation tie-in line. Applications for the transmission and generation tie lines were both previously approved by the PUC. Construction of both lines was completed in 2019 in anticipation of the Crowned Ridge Wind II project.
“Crowned Ridge II has been a lengthy process; not only lengthy today, but the application process is lengthy,” stated Commissioner Kristie Fiegen. “As a commissioner, I have to look at the record, the evidence and the facts. I know all parties have worked hard on this docket and I appreciate their efforts. I particularly appreciate the willingness of the PUC staff to work with other parties and resolve many of the issues,” she said.
Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC filed its application with the commission on July 9, 2019. A public input meeting was held in Watertown in August.
The Crowned Ridge Wind II Project docket can be viewed on the PUC’s website at https://PUC.sd.gov, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2019 Electric Dockets, EL19-027 – In the Matter of the Application by Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC for a Permit of a Wind Energy Facility in Deuel, Grant and Codington counties.