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New wind generation project to start up in South Dakota

By Stan Stelter

Bismarck, ND – Next Saturday, the winds blowing across the prairie near Chamberlain, South Dakota,will start turning huge blades and begin churning out electricity for area homes, farms and businesses.

On that day, the $2.9-million PrairieWinds project becomes the first commercial wind energy project in South Dakota. PrairieWinds will be dedicated by both East River Electric Co-op of Madison, South Dakota, and Basin Electric Power of Bismarck. The project includes two large wind turbines, each capable of producing about 1.3 megawatts of electricity.

Basin spokesman Daryl Hill says the turbines are huge. "Now the pedestals the generators will sit on are 200 feet high and the blades for the generator will have a 100-foot diameter. So the bottom part of the blade at its lowest point will still be 100 feet off the ground."

Co-op customers signed up in advance to purchase blocks of electricity from the project.

Hill says PrairieWinds is an important project for the two organizations. "It's a special project for both of us because it's a first for both of us. And Basin Electric now operates coal-based plants in North Dakota and Wyoming. We have an oil-based facility in Vermillion, South Dakota, and now we can say we one more of the generation mix, which is wind."