The largest solar project in South Dakota begins construction


South Dakota is about to take its first step into the utility-scale solar space as National Grid Renewables announced it has broken ground on its 128 MW Wild Springs solar project. The Pennington County project is located in the Southwest Power Pool and will sell its production to utility Basin Electric Power Cooperative via a 114 MW power purchase agreement.

The project is set to change the presence of solar in the state considerably, as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports only 2 MW currently in operation through Q3 2022, ranking it 50th in terms of deployment. At the present time the state has enough solar energy to power only about 245 homes and post-activation of Wild Springs it will have the capacity to power nearly 16,000 South Dakotan homes.

The project applied for interconnection in the Southwest Power Pool in 2017 and received approval from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in 2020. It is anticipated to reach commercial operations in 2023. The project is expected to lead to a total of $190 million in capital infrastructure improvements.

Ames Construction was selected as the engineering, procurement, and construction partner for the project, which is expected to create 250 jobs during peak construction.

First Solar Series 6 thin-film solar modules will be installed in the project. National Grid announced it secured a 2 GW order of modules from the provider in July 2022. The cadmium telluride solar modules are expected to be delivered in 2024 and 2025 for projects across the United States.

Once operational, Wild Springs is expected to avoid 190,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and is estimated to produce $12 million in new tax revenue through the first 20 years of operation. National Grid said it anticipates donating over $500,000 during the first 20 years of operation to the local community through a planned charitable fund for the New Underwood school district.

The project is expected to lead to the modification or removal of 1,037 acres of land. However, 96% of the disturbed area will be revegetated with a rangeland seed mix, leading to about 47 acres of habitat removal in total.

“Wild Springs represents a continuation of our leadership in renewable energy and economic development in the state of South Dakota,” commented Blake Nixon, president of National Grid Renewables. “Our Crocker Wind Farm located in Clark County began operation in 2019, and now with Wild Springs, we will have nearly 330 MW of clean energy projects in the state, all of which contribute significantly to the tax base, as well as the local communities that host the projects.”

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