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Developer persists in SD wind farm effort


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Developer persists in SD wind farm effort

Geronimo Energy, the developer behind a proposed 400-MW wind farm in eastern South Dakota, is trying to keep the project alive after regulators nixed its original plan. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in late October granted a motion to reject the company's application for a siting permit for the Crocker Wind Farm. Members of the commission said the company had filed too many possible configurations of the project proposed for Clark County, S.D.

The commission issued a written order Nov. 1. Days later, on Nov. 9, acting through a subsidiary called Crocker Wind Farm LLC, Geronimo said it would be quicker and cheaper for all involved if the company did not have to file a new application in a new docket. Instead, the commission should reconsider its decision, reinstate the docket and accept a new procedural schedule that calls for a decision on a revamped proposal in May 2018, the company said.

That timeline is longer than the six-month window for the commission to rule on a wind proposal, but is one that will allow time for parties to react and respond to the plan, the company said. In the new filing, Geronimo tried to address regulators' concerns about the wind project.

Geronimo offered to the commission a single proposed tower layout containing 132 turbine locations that align with the Clark County conditional use permit setbacks and proposed 15 turbines on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed grassland easements. The company added that if the service finds any of those 15 locations unacceptable, they will be eliminated. The company also said it accepted the Clark County setbacks as final.

The Crocker wind project initially called for turbine setbacks of 2,000 feet from nonparticipating residences. But in Clark County, commissioners said setbacks had to be 3,960 feet, or three-quarters of a mile. Geronimo Energy appealed that ruling, but the state Third Circuit Court ruled in favor of the county. The company responded by including multiple versions of the turbines' layout in its application. Geronimo said it needs the commission to consider the potential use of different turbine models, as it has yet to sign a turbine supply agreement. Most, if not all, wind farm projects will not have a signed turbine supply agreement prior to submitting an application to the commission, the company added.

"Signing a turbine supply agreement is the largest financial commitment of a project and in most cases financing to enable the signing of such a contract is not committed prior to having the state permit," the company said. (South Dakota PSC Docket EL 17-028)