First commercial solar project approved in South Dakota

While Oklahoma has yet to lay the groundwork for the state’s first commercial solar project, the first commercial solar power project in South Dakota won approval this week from state regulators but the $115 million project won’t be operational until sometime in 2021.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, on a vote of 3-0 okayed the Lookout Solar Park to be built in 810 acres of federal trust land in the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Owner of the project is Wircon GmbH, a German corporation.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has yet to approve the project agreement.

State commission member Kristie Fiegen added a condition Monday requiring that a copy of the BIA approval be filed before commercial operation starts.

“This is new for us,” Fiegen said.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner backs the project, as did previous tribal administrations.

In a February 27, 2019, letter, Bear Runner stated his continued support:

The developer plans to invest $100 million in the panels and $15 million in the connection system. The plan calls for 500,000 solar panels at the site about 22 miles east of Buffalo Gap.

They would connect to a Western Area Power Administration transmission network in Custer County. The 11 miles of underground cable would include drilling beneath the Cheyenne River and the Angostura canal.

The 110-megawatt facility is expected by commission staff to start operating in the second quarter of 2021.

Source: KELO TV