State set to nearly double wind capacity this year

SIOUX FALLS � When the 105 turbines at the Buffalo Ridge II wind farm begin turning early this year, South Dakota will have nearly doubled its installed wind capacity since the end of 2009.

South Dakota ended that year with 313 megawatts, putting it 20th among states in capacity despite boasting the fourth best wind potential.

But with 99 Day County megawatts coming online in 2010 and the 210-megawatt Buffalo Ridge II set to start up by winter's end, South Dakota is just starting to reach its potential, said Steve Wegman, executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association.

Wegman said he wants to keep the momentum going.

"We want to build at least two wind farms every year, at least start one in the spring and one in the fall to keep these crews busy," he said. "Because the day these crews go home, they're not coming back."

Buffalo Ridge II, from Oregon-based Iberdrola Renewables, had a contract date of delivery of Dec. 31, but the turbines should be coming online in the winter, said spokeswoman Jan Johnson.

The project, which will generate enough electricity to power more than 65,000 homes, covers 42,800 acres of land in northeast Brookings County and southeastern Dueul County with an actual footprint of 77 acres. The power will be sent along a 13 mile transmission line to Xcel Energy's Brookings County substation, and then delivered to customers served by the Midwest Independent System Operator.

In April, the 99 megawatt Day County Wind Project began operation about 20 miles east of Groton with 66 turbines. The farm is owned and operated by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources.

Bismarck, N.D.-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative has committed to buying the power, though during the first three years the electricity will be sold to the Western Area Power Administration, a federal power marketing agency. South Dakota-based East River Electric Power Cooperative built a transmission line to connect the wind farm to the grid.

Wegman said South Dakota also has three projects entering preliminary permitting stages � the 400 megawatt Crown Ridge project in Watertown, the 150 megawatt Highmore project and the 250 megawatt Invenergy/Hurricane Lake Wind Energy I project in Roberts County.

Completion of those projects, Wegman said, could finally bump South Dakota into the gigawatt club, "which would be sweet."

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