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Wind Resistance: Hughes County Prompts PUC Delay of North Bend Wind Farm

South Dakota was able to fabricate a budget surplus with federal coronavirus stimulus checks and a surge in wind farm construction. South Dakota can’t do much on its own to keep the Biden bucks flowing (our members of Congress have actually voted against major federal investments in South Dakota’s general welfare), but it could do more to boost wind construction. The Public Utilities Commission handled four wind energy siting dockets in 2018 and six in 2019, but the PUC received only one wind farm application in 2020 and one in 2021. And that last one, the North Bend Wind Project, just got postponed indefinitely due to balking from Hughes County:

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Friday for deferring the permit hearing that had been scheduled for April 19-21, 2022.

The action came in response to a request from the project developer, who is waiting for a conditional use permit from Hughes County [Bob Mercer, “North Bend Wind Hearing Is Delayed a Second Time,” KELO-TV, 2022.03.06].

The 200-megawatt, 71-turbine North Bend wind farm would be built by French company Engie North America, which built the 250-megawatt Triple H wind farm in Hyde County in 2019 and 2020. The PUC is waiting for the Hughes County Commission to approve a conditional use permit for North Bend, but Hughes County doesn’t seem to trust Engie yet to take care of the roads:

“First, the Hughes County Commission witnessed the issues in Hyde County with the Triple H Wind Farm. Commissioners were able to monitor the condition of those roads at all stages of that project. We want to protect Hughes County from additional, unforeseen road maintenance expenses due to this project and having a thorough Haul Road Agreement in place will allow us to do that,” the county’s letter said [Mercer, 2022.03.06].

Our friend and Holabird farmer Nick Nemec seems to think Engie did pretty good work on his county’s roads. In written comments submitted during the PUC’s public input process on North Bend in August, Nemec, whose land hosts one of Engie’s Triple H turbines, said he saw Engie working hard amidst very rainy conditions to maintain and even improve the gravel roads, widening some roads, intersections, and field approaches, replacing some bad culverts, and leaving their haul roads in better condition than they were before the project.

Nemec also presented anecdotal evidence that wind turbines may offer protection for wildlife:

There have been claims that wind towers have negative effects on wildlife and that they will drive wildlife away. I would like to relate something I saw this spring. In early June I was planting sunflowers on my wind tower field. A mama antelope with a pair of twins was lying in the shadow of the tower, within 20 feet of the base of the tower. Over the course of the day, as the shadow moved, I witnessed mama and the twins get up and move over in order to stay in the shade. I found this amusing and evidence that wind towers might not be as hard on wildlife as sometimes claimed [Nick Nemec, comment to the Public Utilities Commission, North Bend Wind Project Docket EL-21-018, August 2021].

Governor Kristi Noem keeps telling us South Dakota has the strongest, freest economy in America. It’s funny she’s not making more of an effort to tell Hughes County to get out of the way and extend that freedom to the North Bend Wind Farm, the kind of project that saved her budget last year. But oh yeah, effort….


  1. Richard Schriever 2022-03-07 07:38

    Conservatism = resistance to change. Liberalism = embracing change. those are essentially the dictionary definitions of the two ideologies’ underlying precepts. The notion of a “free” market economy aligns with having the freedom to change inherent in liberalism while a highly regulated market economy naturally aligns with conservatism. Much of the rhetoric of the “conservatives” is in direct conflict with the whole notion of that ideological perspective. It is the “newspeak” of Orwell’s future in real time.

  2. mike from iowa 2022-03-07 08:31

    Put Kennedy Noem Nothing on Engel north American board and mama would likely bulldoze Hughes county to get the windfarm started.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-03-07 09:37

    No corporate taxes, a compliant regulator, a dearth of environmental protection and cheap labor make South Dakota the perfect dumping ground for earth killers like coal and eyesores like wind farms. Avangrid, Inc., a US-based subsidiary of Spanish energy firm Iberdrola with a base in my home town of Elkton, South Dakota has spent at least $216 million on a wind farm. That amount of cash would take nearly 17,000 electric subscribers completely off the grid.

    $100 million spent on subsidizing, manufacturing, transporting, erecting and maintaining the Prevailing Winds project would take some 8,000 Basin Power subscribers off the grid. That’s right: primary power purchaser Bismarck, North Dakota-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative is an oligopoly paying Prevailing Winds, LLC to rip up land and disturb cultural resources sacred to numerous Indigenous peoples for a grid that has never been more vulnerable to attack and to climate disruptions.

    The average cost of a household photovoltaic system is about $3/watt or around $12,810 before tax credits are factored in and leaving the grid has never been easier so anyone who can afford to it should do it now.

    Microgrid technologies are destined to encourage self-reliance, enhance tribal sovereignty, free communities from electric monopolies and net-metering only gives control back to utilities enabled by moral hazard. Ice storms routinely knock out electric power on American Indian reservations often resulting in lost lives and the inevitable cyber attacks on the US will take down the grid for days, even months causing food shortages and mayhem.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-03-07 09:46

    Cory, are you sure Nick is a farmer? Those used to be fighting words in Hyde.

  5. All Mammal 2022-03-07 10:20

    I saw on This Old House (seriously, PBS is on point all around. Much like this blog and Mr. Kurtz’s input) they make these tiny little drilling rigs on a trailer that are able to fit in tight spaces like through back yard fences and are able to drill and case, have your home hooked up to geothermal, all within a day. No having to replace anything other than the meter. Along with a government incentive and the savings on power, you have it payed back in monthly installments in no time. It pays for itself and the utilities are surely going to shut the program down in short order, if they haven’t already. I just thought that is innovative and does right by our ol wrung-out good earth. That makes it a worthwhile investment for the rez, the state, for all.

  6. John 2022-03-07 11:44

    All Mammal: I retrofit this house to geothermal maybe 10 years ago. Best. Decision. Ever.
    I’m hoping for companies to scale-down fuel cells to residential size, since my solar exposure is not ideal. I need to re-assess solar in the light of improved technology in solar and storage.

    Consider this from Alliance, NE. About 50 years ago Russ used his high school physics to build his house and its geothermal system. Before geothermal was cool. It was so efficient that he added a greenhouse and grows citrus.
    Watch his video. Note his economics for the green house, but also for selling at the farmers market. This would float many small towns and keep folks in rural America. SDSU is captive to agri-business so will never contribute. It’s also fascinating that Russ operates these at nearly no cost, add solar and operation would be at no cost. Russ’s design merely moves air. My residential system pairs with Waterfurnance and moves antifreeze water through my under ground pipes. Fire your utility.

    My HOA would have a fit with a big greenhouse. I’ll look at a small one since several exist in the HOA. I’ll check out the PBS lead you suggest, coupled with adapting Russ’s design of moving air. Thanks.

  7. All Mammal 2022-03-07 12:44

    Mr. John, thank you for introducing me to Mr. Russ. I love him and get amped up on knowing these projects are happening. I just got done building an entryway vestibule out of that double wall polycarbonate. Good stuff. Sure keeps the heat in. Comes with 10 year warranty and that covers hail and everything. I can’t sit still after watching your links. Thank you. It is amazing how the good earth gives away everything we need for free. I wish the company I was working for didn’t crumble because it was an amazing concept. We built self contained pods and shipped them all over the country. Mainly grow houses. Lights, sinks, everything completely ready to go. Just slap them in and hook them up. I am suspicious there was sabotage since it was such a innovative, responsible product.

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