South Dakota Wind Farm Gets Big USDA Loan

Basin Electric Power was awarded a $240 million loan guarantee recently from the US Department of Agriculture. The money will be used as the majority portion for a $340 million wind farm in central South Dakota. Over 100 wind turbines are planned to be constructed for the project, enough to produce the estimated 151.5 megwatts (MW) of electricity that will join to other electric generation distribution systems.

The capital for the PrairieWind project will be funded by the Rural Utility Service, part of the USDA’s Rural Development sector that holds $147 billion in loans and guarantees designated to support farming and ranching communities across the United States. Calling the investment a help to “win the future,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the project would create jobs and “build a reliable source of renewable energy for generations of rural Americans.”

wind power

image via Iberdrola Renewables

A possible sign that rural communities are embracing the development, the USDA announced that 32 landowners provided lease easements in order for the project to be approved. Working under a Basin Electric subsidiary, PairieWinds will build and operate the wind turbines in South Dakota, and then sell the power produced back to Basin Electric. Since 2009, Basin Electric has been running the largest wind farm in North Dakota, producing 120 MW of energy. With the completion of the South Dakota turbines, Basin Electric will have roughly 700 MW of wind power in its portfolio.

As this map [pdf] shows, South Dakota is right in the vein of high-speed winds that can be harnessed for energy production. Both Dakotas have been increasing wind power production, and with good reason. Combined, North and South Dakota have the potential to produce more wind energy than all but five US states.

Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of BananaStandMedia.com, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.