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Xcel wins approval for another major wind farm project

These turbines are part of the Xcel Energy Courtenay Wind Farm in south-central North Dakota. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy has received approval to build a $380 million, 72-turbine wind farm in northeast South Dakota.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission this week approved a permit with conditions for constructing the 300-megawatt project in Grant and Codington counties along the Minnesota border and in an area about 10 miles northeast of Watertown..

The Dakota Range project is expected to be finished in 2021.

The farm is expected to encompass up to 72 turbines across about 44,500 acres.

Among the 42 conditions on the project are aircraft detection lighting, detecting and reacting to ice conditions on turbine blades and bird mortality monitoring, said a release from the commission.

"The comprehensive conditions we imposed on the permit will ensure the facility is built and operated in a manner that is responsible and fair to all parties as well as the environment, " said Commission vice chairman Gary Hanson.

Xcel Energy is in the process of owning and operating more of its wind farms after historically purchasing much of its wind power from independent suppliers under long-term contracts, said spokesman Randy Fordice on Thursday, July 12.

The company currently owns five wind farms producing about 850 megawatts in the Upper Midwest with a sixth project under construction in Colorado.

The South Dakota project is one of eight new wind farms that Xcel is developing in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The seven others have already been approved or are nearing approval, as some still need local or state transmission, facility or site permitting, Fordice said.

One of the projects, a 150-megawatt farm called Foxtail Wind in Dickey County in southeast North Dakota, is already under construction.

The other six planned are two 200-megawatt projects in Lincoln County in southwest Minnesota, a 100-megawatt farm in Pipestone County in southwest Minnesota, a 200-megawatt project in Freeborn County in southeast Minnesota and parts of Iowa, a 100-megawatt project in Morton and Mercer counties in south-central North Dakota and another Codington County project, this one at 600 megawatts, in northeast South Dakota. The seven are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Xcel said the projects will save customers "billions of dollars in fuel and other costs," keeping monthly bills flat and providing enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes. It will increase Xcel's regional wind output by about 70 percent and cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Xcell will own 1,150 megawatts of the new wind energy, with another 400 megawatts sold to the company under long-term power purchase agreements.

Xcel estimates lease payments to landowners will be more than $7 million annually, with property tax payments of more than $8 million.

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