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Project May Result With Construction of

Sat December 31, 2005 - Midwest Edition

PIERRE, SD (AP) A project to extend a large electrical transmission line from the Lake Benton area of Minnesota into South Dakota may result in construction of South Dakota’s largest wind farm, according to state officials.

Bob Sahr, a member of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, said Xcel Energy plans a 10-mi. (16.1 km) power-line extension into Brookings County as part of a plan to expand its transmission system and accommodate more wind power.

Xcel is working with PPM Energy of Portland, OR, on initial development of a wind farm that could generate 50 to 75 megawatts of electricity from turbines that would be located in Brookings and Deuel counties, he said.

“If you were a betting person, that would be the one to bet on as the next wind farm in South Dakota,” Sahr said. “It would be the second major wind farm in the state.”

The other large farm is a 40-megawatt, 27-turbine operation in Hyde County.

Officials have said additional development of large wind farms in South Dakota is hindered by lack of large power lines to move that electricity to cities in other states that need more power.

The transmission system in South Dakota is nearing capacity, and while there is little demand for extra power in the state, populated areas elsewhere are clamoring for more electricity.

“Everybody knows transmission’s the big hang-up to exporting South Dakota wind,” Sahr said.

He said extension of Xcel’s power lines along Buffalo Ridge, which runs from northwestern Iowa into southwestern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, would mesh nicely with wind turbines along the Minnesota border in Brookings and Deuel counties.

“Xcel is talking about three or more lines along Buffalo Ridge,” he said. “They would like to get this first 50 to 75 megawatts up and then look at expanding and getting even larger.

“What is really exciting is having both the wind power developer and the utility talking about their hopes to make it much larger in the future. What they’re talking about are three or four other major upgrades sometime over the next five years or so where they would be able to expand.”

Buffalo Ridge has the largest concentration of wind turbines in the nation, with about 25 individual wind farms and more than 600 turbines capable of 500 megawatts.

Sahr, who will become PUC chairman next month, said a third large wind farm is planned near Java in north-central South Dakota.

An agreement has been reached in which Montana-Dakota Utilities will buy wind-generated electricity from Superior Renewable Energy of Houston, a wind-farm developer, he said.

The Superior wind farm would produce 25.5 megawatts of electricity, Sahr said.

“Both these wind farms have cleared one of the biggest hurdles, which is actually having an agreement in place with a utility to purchase the power,” he said.

Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, CA, also has said it wants to build a $3 billion wind farm in the center of the state.

It envisions 1,000 turbines and a capacity of 3,000 megawatts, which would make it the world’s largest wind farm complex.

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