Geronimo Energy, a National Grid company, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative announced a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the Wild Springs Solar Project. Wild Springs is a 128 megawatt (MW) clean solar energy project located in Pennington County, South Dakota, approximately 20 miles east of Rapid City. Wild Springs is anticipated to begin operations in 2022. Once operational, Wild Springs will be the largest solar project in South Dakota.
Wild Springs will be located in the service area of West River Electric Association, which is a distribution electric cooperative member of Basin Electric, a not-for-profit wholesale power provider to 141 member cooperative systems in nine states.
“For the first time in its history, Basin Electric will buy solar generation on a large scale to serve our members. The board’s decision to add solar generation to our resource portfolio is to continue with our all-of-the-above strategy, as well as solar generation becoming a more economic energy source. We are excited about adding solar to our already diverse generation mix,” stated Paul Sukut, CEO and General Manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
In South Dakota, Basin Electric transmits its power supply to two generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives, Rushmore Electric Power Cooperative and East River Electric Power Cooperative. Those two G&T cooperatives then transmit the power supply to their respective distribution cooperatives, with Rushmore Electric being the G&T provider to West River Electric. West River Electric and the state’s 27 other distribution co-ops power the homes, farms and businesses within their service areas.
“Our cooperative network is always looking to ensure we have a mix of power resources to meet the needs of our membership and renewable energy is an important part of that strategy,” said Rushmore Electric General Manager, Vic Simmons. “This project with Geronimo Energy is an important strategic step as we look to the future in continuing our strong history of providing safe, affordable and reliable power.”
The project has been supported by local and state community members and will bring significant economic benefits to the local area. Current estimations for the project’s economic benefits total over $17 million throughout the first 20 years of operation, including positive impacts in new tax revenue, construction jobs, new full-time jobs, and charitable funds through the project’s Education Fund. The Wild Springs Education Fund alone will offer approximately $500,000 in donations to the local school districts connected to the project above and beyond all tax revenue and local spending benefits.
“Historically, there has been a misconception that solar in the northern regions of the United States wasn’t feasible,” stated David Reamer, President for Geronimo Energy. “Both Geronimo and Basin Electric recognized that the addition of solar to its overall generation fleet not only offers customers a clean, economic option for their electricity, but it also diversifies a utility’s portfolio.”
Geronimo’s South Dakota operating project portfolio includes the recently completed Crocker Wind Farm, a 200 MW wind project located in Clark County, South Dakota. Geronimo also successfully developed the operational Pierre Solar Project, a joint effort with the City of Pierre and Missouri River Energy Services, located on City property in Hughes County, South Dakota.
— Solar Builder magazine