(Click here to view pictures from dedication.
Dedication ceremonies for the $363-million Crow Lake Project – the largest wind project in the United States owned solely by a cooperative -- were held June 23 at the school gymnasium in White Lake, S.D. The wind project was placed into full operation in February of this year.
The Crow Lake Wind Project is owned by PrairieWinds SD 1 Inc., a subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D. The project is located about 14 miles north of White Lake.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke to a crowd of about 400 people from the area about what this project means for South Dakota. "In the past, wind power meant downed trees, snapped power lines and the lights going out. Now, wind power means having electricity to keep our lights on,” he said. "And thanks to the partnerships that helped make this project happen, South Dakota now has 162 more megawatts of wind generation power, more jobs, and an infrastructure to train new wind technicians."
The ceremony was hosted by Ron Harper, Basin Electric CEO and general manager. He called the wind project an “industry trifecta” because it’s the largest wind project owned solely by a cooperative, it’s got a first-of-its-kind community wind investment partnership, and it’s being used to educate future wind technicians.
“Basin Electric’s first involvement in South Dakota began more than 30 years ago when we built the Spirit Mound Station just north of Vermillion,” Harper said. “Now, in 2011, that investment has grown tremendously. By the end of next year, energy investments in this state that have a Basin Electric “footprint” (including the NextEra projects) will be about $932 million dollars…just shy of a billion dollars.”
A South Dakota native and Basin Electric director is Kermit Pearson. As a rural electric consumer, he’s very proud of the investment Basin Electric and the rural electric family has made in the state. “The genesis of the project began more than 50 years ago when Basin Electric was formed as a power supplier. Since then, Basin Electric has grown. We now supply supplemental electricity to 135 member cooperatives in nine states,” he said. “By the end of 2012, Basin Electric will have invested more than $900 million in South Dakota for energy development.”
Even though the rural electrics in South Dakota are separate and distinct operations, Pearson said they’re part of a huge cooperative family. “Basin Electric is owned by its consumers. I am a rural electric consumer in Lake Region’s service territory. I’m a director on Lake Region’s board representing consumers in my district for the operations of Lake Region. I’m a director on East River’s board representing Lake Region and its consumers, and I’m a director on Basin Electric’s board, representing all of the rural electrics and rural electric consumers in the eastern half of South Dakota.”
Jeff Nelson, general manager of East River Electric, said the cooperative is pleased to be a part of this coordinated project. “This affirms with our members, the cooperative's commitment to include wind generation as an integral part of our power supply,” he said. “We are especially pleased to have played a pivotal role in helping to launch the SD Wind Partners and MTI ownership as first-of-a-kind local ownership models. As president of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, we believe this project is a great step forward for the SDWEA's mission of building a wind industry in South Dakota for the benefit of South Dakotans.”
Construction on the Crow Lake project began Oct. 5, 2010.
The entire project consists of 108 GE 1.5-megawatt turbines – 100 are owned and operated by PrairieWinds SD 1, Inc., one turbine is owned by MTI, and the remaining seven are owned by a group of local community investors called the South Dakota Wind Partners. PrairieWinds constructed the turbines for the Wind Partners and MTI, and will operate and maintain them. PrairieWinds will also purchase the electricity generated by the eight turbines.
The Wind Partners investment is a first-of-its-kind partnership for wind development. The opportunity became viable following passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009. The act created a new tax grant option allowing small investors to access government incentives and tax benefits making public wind ownership possible.
Basin Electric Class A member East River Electric Power Cooperative, the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, South Dakota Farmers Union and the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council created the Wind Partners for that purpose.
The turbine sold to MTI will be used as part of the school’s Wind Turbine Technology program, which launched in 2009. Through a grant, stimulus bonds, GE support and the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, MTI purchased the turbine. The revenue collected from electricity sold will help cover maintenance costs and loan payments.
Greg Von Wald, president of MTI, said "You simply cannot simulate in a lab the experience and confidence climbing this turbine provides for MTI students. There is no way to take a lab full of trainers and book knowledge and finish off these young students without the real life experience of translating what they have learned in the lab to the real life components of this wind turbine." He said the availability of this turbine to MTI came about because a lot of good organizations and good people got together to make it happen because they saw the possibilities—and it was not easy to get that done.
South Dakota U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson offered congratulations in completing the Crow Lake Wind Project. In a letter read by his staff assistant, Carmyn Egge, Johnson said investing in renewable electricity makes good economic sense for South Dakota. “Wind energy projects support good jobs in our local communities by creating a demand for technicians to construct and service turbines.”
Jim Burg, president of the South Dakota Wind Partners, talked about the importance of a project like this. “This first-of-its-kind public wind power investment provides South Dakotans a great opportunity to become personally involved with helping to advance this green source of energy. The South Dakota Wind Partners is proud to be involved in this project and hopes others can utilize a similar business model that can incorporate local investment into similar future projects,” he said.