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SD county learns that 2000ft setbacks not quite enough

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Clark County SD is in a legal battle over its decision to increase wind turbine setbacks from 2000ft to 3960ft (three-quarters of a mile). The Clark County Commission approved the 400MW Crocker Wind Farm, but based on local experience with a smaller wind farm, decided that more distance was needed between turbines and non-participating homes.  As reported by the Watertown Public Opinion:

County zoning rules originally called for a minimum 1,000-foot setback from residences, but according to Commissioner Francis Hass, the commission didn’t do enough homework before allowing a 2,000-foot minimum setback for the 11-tower Oak Tree Project built four miles north of the Clark a few years ago.

“We absolutely don’t want to kill wind energy,” Hass said. “We just didn’t look good enough when we put in the first set. Those towers are fine with the exception of being too close to a residence. “Towers do make noise, and when the weather is right they make a lot of noise.”

The wind company, Geronimo Energy, challenged this decision in court, and in August the court declined its motion for a partial summary judgement. Initial reporting suggested the County’s standards had been upheld, though a followup clarified that the judge simply ruled that he would not issue a determination until after a full hearing on all the challenges included in Geronimo’s claims. (There are some conflicting press reports on this; a September article says Geronimo has appealed to a higher court.)

Meanwhile, the state PUC continued its consideration of state permitting for the 200-turbine wind farm. A September hearing attracted both farmers eager to host turbines and local residents opposed to the project. A decision was expected in late January 2018, but in October, the PUC denied the application, saying that Geronimo’s plans were still too much in flux to proceed with the approval process, which by state law must be concluded within six months. The uncertainty was mostly related to negotiations with US Fish and Wildlife over land swaps and environmental impact assessments for about 40 of the turbine locations, leading to the submission of four different possible turbine configuration plans. However, the quicker than expected decision was triggered by an intervention request by opponents of the wind farm, which noted that the Clark County half-mile setback would necessitate the relocation of 35 further turbines.

Geronimo is free to resubmit its application once the turbine layout is finalized.

 

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