South Dakota’s largest solar farm just came online

National Grid Renewables just brought South Dakota’s largest solar farm online in Pennington County.

Wild Springs is a 128-megawatt (MW) solar farm in the Southwest Power Pool, which manages the central US’s electric grid and wholesale power market. The solar farm has a 114 MW power purchase agreement with the utility Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

Wild Springs is expected to provide approximately $29.5 million in direct economic impact, including $12 million in new tax revenue, over the first 20 years of operations.

It will generate enough clean electricity to power the equivalent of around 37,000 homes each year. Wild Springs will avoid 190,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of removing 42,000 cars from the road.

Additionally, in what National Grid Renewables says is “unique” to the company, the project will also contribute $500,000 in charitable giving to the local New Underwood school district over the first 20 years of operations. Jack Trullinger, the mayor of New Underwood, said that “the predicted tax revenue along with the generous charitable contribution to the school district is a very welcome bonus.”

Solar is fledgling in South Dakota and not expected to grow – according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state has 268 MW of installed solar. It’s ranked 42nd among states for installed solar and is expected to drop to 47th place in the next five years. However, the Mount Rushmore State is a wind powerhouse – in 2022, wind provided 55% of South Dakota’s total in-state net generation, a larger share than in all other states except Iowa.

Overall, renewable resources provided about 84% of South Dakota’s in-state electricity net generation in 2022. The EIA points out that “South Dakota uses less total petroleum than all but two other states and the District of Columbia, but because of the state’s small population [900,000+], it uses more petroleum per capita than all but eight other states.”

Bismarck, North Dakota-based utility Basin Electric, which is purchasing Wild Springs’ solar power, went with the “all-of-the-above” line. Chris Baumgartner, Basin Electric’s senior vice president of member and external relations, said:

We are excited to add solar to our all-of-the-above generation portfolio which includes dispatchable resources such as coal and natural gas and non-dispatchable resources such as wind and now solar.

The Bismarck-based utility announced last month that it’s planning to build a multi-billion-dollar natural gas-fired power generation facility in North Dakota, which would become its largest power plant. North Dakota has an excess of natural gas as a byproduct of oil production.

Read more: Oxford sets a new world record for solar panel efficiency

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