South Dakota to get its first utility-scale solar project


400 kW-DC. That’s all the solar that South Dakota has deployed as of the latest statistics by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The state is one of the few to have no net metering or similar policy, has no renewable energy mandate, and according to SEIA, is 50th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia for the deployment of solar PV, meaning that it has less solar deployed than Alaska.

But solar is coming to every end of the nation, and South Dakota is no exception. On November 7 a local county commission in Fall River County, South Dakota approved infrastructure changes to allow for the development of a 40 MW-AC solar project. The SD Sun will be built in two 20 MW phases on pasture and hay land on Highway 18, just south of the Black Hills in the western part of the state.

This would represent a more than 100x increase in the state’s solar capacity compared to the figures reported by SEIA.

The SD Sun project is being developed by 174 Global, a subsidiary of Hanwha Q-Cells that appears to be so new that its web site is still under development. Rapid City Journal reports that the project has signed two power contracts with Black Hills Energy, and construction is set to begin in April.

GTM Research Solar Analyst Colin Smith reports that these contracts were secured under the auspices of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1974 (PURPA). However he also says that he has found no other utility-scale solar projects which have been able to secure contracts in the state.

Smith also says that it is difficult for solar to meet the prices set under South Dakota’s implementation of PURPA, so he does not expect more projects like this “any time soon”.

pv magazine did not receive a response from 174 Global to our questions by press time, and some details of the project remain unclear. However, Rapid City Journal reports the construction phase could involve 50 jobs, which is never a drawback in a rural area, as well as a $40 million investment.