Press "Enter" to skip to content

Redfield Ag/Ethanol Interests Team with Minnesota Wind Builder to Pitch Solar Farm in Spink County

The Spink County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear Tulare Energy LLC’s petition for a conditional use permit to build a 400-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm in Crandon and Tulare townships. Here’s what energy entrepreneurs Steve Masat, Bruce Blume, and Roland Jurgens told the Spink P&Z at the commission’s June 4 meeting:

Tulare Energy, LLC gave an informational presentation on a possible solar farm and energy storage facility in section 6 of Crandon township and section 1 of Tulare township. Gianna Lantero with Grow Spink and Steve Masat, Bruce Blume, and Roland Jurgens with Tulare Energy, LLC spoke regarding the project. Here are some of the highlights of the presentation; the project is in response to Northwestern Energy seeking new energy sources. The solar farm would use approximately 400 acres of land and deliver up to 60 megawatts of power.All parts of the facilities would be fenced in, and the area containing the solar panels will be planted to grass or a pollinator mix and may be used to graze sheep or, with the proper ground supports, cattle. All other areas of the facility would be graveled surfaces, with battery systems in container enclosures and placed on concrete slabs. A facility this size will typically employ 3-4 personnel [Spink County Planning and Zoning Commission, minutes, 2019.06.04].

Three or four jobs on one site smaller than a section? That’s at least as many permanent jobs as the Keystone XL pipeline would create in any one county in South Dakota! Governor Noem! Quick—pass some anti-solar-protest bills! Plus, we get pollinator gardens around the solar panels—how much greener can the project get?

Tulare Energy LLC’s leaders have Big Ag and energy backgrounds. Steve Masat is an SD Corn board member, has been Wheat Growers and Farm Bureau honcho, and raises corn and CAFO meat southeast of Redfield. Bruce Blume is on the board of managers at the Redfield Energy ethanol plant. Roland Jurgens is a Wilmot HS grad who now lives in Chokio, Minnesota, and is senior project manager at Thorstad Companies, which lists its big project areas as wind energy, concrete paving, and underground water and sewer works. Jurgens is project-managing the Prevailing Wind Park between Avon and Tripp, a 61-turbine, 220-megawatt installation that, after its completion this year, could produce more power than the Gavin’s Point Dam. The papers for Tulare Energy LLC and Tulare Energy Holdings LLC also list Thorstad Companies president Keith Thorstad as a co-organizer of the former and a co-manager of the latter.

Nicholas Gilroy, "Direct Normal Solar Resource of South Dakota," National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2017.04.04; included in Lookout Solar Park I application to SD-PUC, 2018.12.17, p. 6-1.
Nicholas Gilroy, “Direct Normal Solar Resource of South Dakota,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2017.04.04; included in Lookout Solar Park I application to SD-PUC, 2018.12.17, p. 6-1.

Tulare Energy LLC has not submitted an application to the Public Utilities Commission yet. The PUC has one other solar farm application pending, Lookout Solar Park I, a 110-megawatt, 500,000-panel facility proposed for 810 acres just west of the southwestern tip of the Badlands National Monument on BIA Highway 2 on the western edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation. According to the map clipped above from the project’s PUC application, the Lookout Solar Park would sit on South Dakota’s sunniest ground, with roughly 20% more solar power potential than the Spink County Tulare Energy site.


  1. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-10 18:13

    On average, that will produce 20 MW…assuming a generous 33% capacity factor.

    If the energy has a direct use (i.e. something that can be done whenever, without a demand response), then no extra carbon gets emitted. Charging batteries, secondary heating/cooling, industrial/ag use, etc.

    Otherwise sending it onto the grid usually means someone burns natural gas to make up the difference….which emits carbon. If you send the excess somewhere else, and the carbon is emitted by somebody else, do you still get a self-high-five for not emitting the resulting carbon?

    The better outcome I believe is that this energy would be used immediately for an industrial use, and therefore less energy is pulled from the grid.

    I note the lack of any waste management plan or recycling plans mentioned above. I hope that will come out of the sundry applications. You should have to reduce your overall carbon as much as possible and deal with your wastes to get the full green smiley sticker.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-10 18:51

    Direct use—well, they’re setting it up south of town instead of right by the ethanol plant, so it doesn’t seem immediately to be a project to provide occasional replacement power for the ethanol plant (but what do I know—maybe running a thirteen-mile power line from Tulare to the plant is no big deal).

    I didn’t see any detailed plan posted on the Spink County P&Z website. Let’s keep an eye out.

  3. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-10 19:06

    It would be nice if the user of the power were right next to the solar farm…then you don’t lose much in the transmission either.

    I would agree that solar plus gas would be better than coal, but solar plus gas with an increasing demand for electricity will lead to more carbon from the gas.

    …until we get a small modular reactor to provide process heat for the ethanol plant and backup power for all the solar farms :^).

    Liquid biofuel is one form of energy storage by the way (as is hydrogen made from biomass).

  4. Debbo 2019-08-10 23:26

    So Tulare is home to a solar power company? Good enough. I used to haul the occasional truckload of wheat to the elevator there. I wish them good luck with their project.

  5. ROLAND JURGENS 2019-08-11 11:47

    Hi Everyone, Roland here and Thanks for the article and the well wishes! Just wanted to clear up a little speculation in the comments. Tulare Energy, LLC is not associated with Redfield Energy. Redfield Energy receives its electricity from NorthWestern Energy and will continue to do so if Tulare Energy’s Solar and Storage is built. But if all goes as hoped Tulare Energy solar generated electricity will go to NorthWestern Energy.

    Tulare Energy’s solar and storage project has been developed in response to NorthWestern’s RFP to replace the Natural Gas fired generation at the Huron Generating Station. This is possible because of the recent cost reductions in utility scale storage and solar, but mainly lower storage cost. These cost reductions have made solar combined with storage able to compete head to head with new natural gas generation, even with a little less solar energy hitting the ground in Spink County. So yes, I don’t think this could get any greener!

    Tulare Energy located the project north of Tulare because NorthWestern’s primary 115kV transmission line runs right through the project’s site and about 1 mile south of the site is the Dakota Access Pumping Station and 5-6 miles north is Redfield Energy’s facility. Both facilities have some of the largest loads on NorthWestern’s SD system and with that about a third of Tulare’s electricity will only travel a few miles before it is consumed. Electrically that is basically direct use for both facilities. Plus a large storage facility like this can charge its batteries with excess energy (wind) on the grid. Preventing the need to dispatch another resource later, like a gas plant. Energy storage changes everything we though we knew.

    Tulare Energy and its local owners thank everybody for the overwhelming support for the project and we are really looking forward to bringing the first utility scale energy storage and solar energy facility to South Dakota.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-11 13:33

    Thanks, Roland! We welcome your expert explanations.

    Cost and storage are making it possible to compete with natural gas generation? That sounds, dare I say, revolutionary?

    Storage: how long does the storage last? Suppose there’s normal demand from Northwestern, the batteries are fully charged, and then the sun goes down. How long can the batteries meet that normal demand? (If I haven’t phrased the question properly to account for proper variables, please elaborate!)

  7. ROLAND JURGENS 2019-08-12 09:43

    Cory, happy to share the information. The fact that utility scale storage has become cost effective and costs continue to decline is revolutionary. With Storage there is really no psychical or time limit it all depends on how much storage is installed.

    There is financial limit on how much storage capacity should be installed. You only do what makes sense financially. In the utility world one needs to build what you need and no more, plus one needs to build the resource that is the lowest cost option for the customer. That is why coal was built when it was, that is why natural gas was built when it was, that is why wind was built when it was, and now why storage and solar will be built.

    There is a recent announcement that you may want to look in to, it has more links to the revolution that is happening!


  8. Clyde 2019-08-13 00:01

    Roland, You mean you won’t need a nuclear reactor???

  9. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-13 05:11

    Sorry Clyde. Unfortunately the small nuclear reactors are not available yet. I know many readers of the blog are just darn disappointed about that….the combination of solar + batteries does get around my typical point of not emitting carbon (via natural gas) in the name of not emitting carbon (from renewables).

    But ask the utilities whether they would like to have a small nuclear reactor option on the table, either for pure baseload, or to backup renewables without carbon.

    In South Dakota small nuclear reactors do not become feasible until we solve the national nuclear waste impasse, and the costs of a small nuclear reactor are proven to be competitive with solar/wind plus energy storage (particularly over a 30 year timescale for all costs…including maintenance and waste management).

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-14 07:26

    Thanks, Roland. I look forward to seeing the Tulare solar farm enter free-market competition and prove the technology.

    Does storage scale? Do the first few hours of battery storage cost more than subsequent hours? How much storage, in terms of sunless hours/days, can the Tulare project afford to install? Can the team come back later and install more storage if the project proves profitable?

  11. ROLAND JURGENS 2019-08-14 20:10

    Clyde, in the electricity markets its all about costs. Right now and for the foreseeable future the cost of electricity from nuclear is not the lowest cost option. So until someone fixes the cost issues with nuclear it is not a viable option. Ohio just approved a 2 BILLION dollar subsidy to prop up 2 or 3 nuclear plants that are too costly to be competitive in the market.

    I personally don’t see any path forward for nuclear in the free-market. Hope that can change someday.

  12. ROLAND JURGENS 2019-08-14 20:27

    Cory, storage definitely scales, the bigger the better. The bigger the lower the costs. The cost of the energy is no different in the first hours or the last hour. The only thing that changes the cost is the cost of the energy used to charge the batteries. Yes a project can install more storage later, the limit on that is how much the transmission system can move out of a certain location. But with storage you can move down the line 50 or 100 miles and put in another storage system. In some places right now storage is being installed to support the Grid instead of building miles and miles of new transmissions lines. It is less costly to install storage and works better than upgrading the lines.

    Again it is what is the lowest cost option for the Utilities rate payers that meets NERC requirements, not really profits. In the Utility world we don’t have profit, just a rate of return on an investment. No investment, no returns.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-18 10:10

    Interesting. Can storage support a decentralized grid that can reduce the geographical extent of outages?

    Help me understand the idea that we build more storage instead of building more transmission lines. It sounds like what you’re saying is that we need to upgrade transmission lines to carry more power at once, but that if we build storage, we can transmit lower amounts of power over time to the batteries to meet local needs instead of having to build bigger lines to carry more instant power for surges. We still have to have the same number of miles of line—power still has to get to every city, every factory, and every house—but storage lets us spread out the load and reduce the maximum amount any line has to carry at a given moment… is that correct?

  14. ROLAND JURGENS 2019-08-19 17:51

    Cory, yes storage can support a single home (Tesla Powerwall) or business, up to an entire community (utility scale storage) during an outage or other grid events.

    You have the right idea regarding storage in lieu of power lines. Under NERC, power lines must be able to carry all the load an area requires, plus a little extra (a peak event). The peak event(s) in many cases only happens for a few hours a year and generally it does not mean a blackout, it means a brownout issue. Adding storage at locations of peak events can support the grid for the duration of those events, which can avoid having to upgrade the capacity of the power lines. In remote areas, growth areas, or end of line situations should a utilities customers have to pay for 10, 20 or 50+ miles of power line upgrades because of a peak event that happens for a few hours a year. Storage can be a more cost effective solution.

    Also Solar and Storage together in locations like this can provide generation during blackouts too, helping to keep the lights on when the power line or generator goes down. This just happened in Hawaii, when a set of diesel generators failed.

  15. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-19 18:58

    The costs of operating a nuclear power plant once it is built are low per kilowatt-hour. The upfront costs of building a power plant like the one we use today are expensive.

    Renewables have the reverse problem. They are much cheaper to build upfront than nuclear, but there are costs at the end of the life-cycle which are not being addressed. And a solar or wind farm may be completely replaced several times over the lifetime of a nuclear power plant, and the plan is to throw all of that away.

    Batteries are not issue-free either. Sorry.

    By the way, fire and smoke are great ways to distribute radionuclides. So if you are hoping for a zero dose policy regarding nuclear, please know that accidental fires and the burning of renewable wastes to reduce their volume would disperse naturally-occurring radionuclides. But fixing that to bring the risk of public exposure to zero would raise the costs of renewables.

    Subsidies for either nuclear or renewables are not great. But I invite you to figure out the subsidies per number of kilowatt-hours over the lifetime of the nuclear plant, and do that for the same energy and same number of years with renewable subsidies. Moreover, there is a rationale for keeping the jobs at the nuclear plant, and allowing states with nuclear plants to reach their carbon targets sooner.

    The good news is that large-scale battery storage would help nuclear. You could use current power plants in a baseload capacity, and then store nuclear energy off-grid when prices are low and sell when prices are higher.

    But it is probably more likely that we allow our nuclear plants to operate flexibly to support renewables. That will be more feasible once the new nuclear fuels reach the market (more resistance to higher temperatures, easier to load-follow, walk-away safe). Those will also be used in the upcoming smaller reactors.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-21 05:28

    If Walmart is right and Tesla was grossly negligent, that’s a ding on Tesla, not the viability of solar energy.

  17. jerry 2019-08-21 07:34

    True that Cory, Tesla is just one of the many players in the solar energy field. South Dakota Co-Ops have been a player for some years now.

    “When most people think of South Dakota, they don’t often think of excessive sunshine. And while it’s probably more common to think of wind turbines than solar panels providing electricity in the state, that isn’t stopping Central Electric Cooperative in Mitchell, South Dakota, from pursuing answers to the questions their members are asking when it comes to this increasingly popular renewable energy source.

    Solar in South Dakota?
    In the summer of 2015, Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen spearheaded a project that brought a solar array to its headquarters building.

    “Our members had been asking questions about solar, both from an environmental and a financial standpoint,” Schlimgen says. “Since there is so much information out there about it, some that may be relevant to them and some that might not be, we wanted to move forward and be able to answer their questions in the most accurate and unbiased way possible. In order to do that, we felt it was important to be able to give them real-life data to use as a resource. So we installed solar ourselves.” ”

    BTW, I love it when the big boys squabble among themselves, it makes interest in their stocks rise as the Dow Futures will show today. The fact is that no one was harmed in the 7 incidents and Tesla will get to take a huge write off on some old crappy out dated products while Walmart will be able to do the same. No harm, no foul.

  18. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-21 08:12

    Long term I think there will be a lot more solar plus batteries in South Dakota, simply because it will be difficult to site wind power in neighborhoods without significant changes. But things like the Tesla solar panel fires must be addressed for that to succeed.

    Safety is important. And frankly, the more often you have to replace the system the more expensive it is to have such a system. Electrical safety is simply paramount in nuclear…you can’t have that happen. Solar does have something to learn from nuclear with regard to safety.

  19. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-21 08:17

    It would be much better if we could capture carbon and then put that to work in solar, wind, nuclear, and batteries instead. Sort of like eating asian carp to help clean up the rivers. Definitely would be a win-win.

  20. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-21 20:04

    “As far as we know, nobody in the U.S. has done any drop tests for impact testing like this,” June said. The data collected will aid industry in developing safer, more reliable batteries with more efficient performance. It will also help in responding to emergencies such as electric-vehicle crashes, she said.

  21. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-24 18:17

    Wal-Mart is not alone. Amazon reports that a solar energy system they got from Tesla also caught fire in 2018. Amazon has no further plans to purchase solar energy systems from Tesla.

    “In the [Walmart] suit, they also alleged that Tesla failed to ground its solar and electrical systems properly, and that Tesla-installed solar panels on-site at Walmart stores contained a high number of defects that were visible to the naked eye, and which Tesla should have found and repaired before they led to fires.”

  22. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-24 18:40

    “Resources are necessary. Safety isn’t free.”

    –Elizabeth Warren near the Savannah River facility talking about nuclear waste disposal. Aiken Standard, 20 August, 2019.

    True for nuclear, true for solar.

  23. jerry 2019-08-24 19:20

    Mitchell, South Dakota says its all cool with their solar, that’s all that counts. Who cares about Amazon or Walmart?

  24. Robert McTaggart 2019-08-24 19:26

    Yeah, they just offer products to the masses. No big deal.

    It is not like they would be interested in offering reliable and safe solar energy systems to the people.

    Admit it jerry…you just want solar energy all for yourself ;^).

  25. leslie 2019-11-18 21:14

    More panels. Sure wish Ronnie Raygun hadn’t removed panels on the White House 30YEARS AGO!! GOP in the pocket of fossil fuels industry! “While the solar arrays would make up a tiny percentage of the city’s overall energy production, it would be by far the largest provider of solar energy in New York City” nyt twitter (Sally Goldenberg

  26. leslie 2019-11-19 13:29

    More panels. Sure wish Ronnie Raygun hadn’t removed panels on the White House 30YEARS AGO!! GOP in the pocket of fossil fuels industry! “While the solar arrays would make up a tiny percentage of the city’s overall energy production, it would be by far the largest provider of solar energy in New York City” nyt twitter (

    Please explain the need for solar to power Dakota Access pipeline pump stations, anyone? Eminent domain for that too? For oil/tar sands? … going where, to feed whose (Koch) refineries, to sell product to who? Finally, how many acres for the wind farm/park; and regarding terminology does a facility differ from a project here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.