South Dakota to get its first large utility-scale solar project


South Dakota is one of the last places in the United States to deploy large-scale solar. While the exact installed capacity of the state is unclear, the largest project to date found by pv magazine is a 1 MW solar plant in Pierre. 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.

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 could represent as much as a 50x increase in the installed capacity in the state.

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.


Correction: This article was corrected on July 31 at 2:05 PM EST. An earlier version of the article cited SEIA numbers on South Dakota’s installed capacity, but we have since discovered projects which have a greater capacity than the aggregate cited by SEIA, so we have removed the references to SEIA’s data.

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