Construction Underway on South Dakota’s Largest Solar Project

A 128-MW solar energy project that will serve customers of a regional electric power cooperative is under construction in South Dakota, with the facility expected to enter commercial operation later this year.

National Grid Renewables on Jan. 10 said work has begun on the company’s Wild Springs Solar Project in Pennington County. The array will be the largest built in the state to date. Wild Springs, located in an area in the Southwest Power Pool, already has a 114-MW power purchase agreement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The SPP oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in the central U.S. on behalf of a several utilities and transmission companies in 17 states.

Ames Chosen as EPC

Minnesota-based Ames Construction will serve as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) lead on the Wild Springs project. National Grid Renewables in a news release said the solar facility is expected to bring at least $12 million in new tax revenue to the region during its first two decades of operation.

“Wild Springs represents a continuation of our leadership in renewable energy and economic development in the state of South Dakota,” said 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.”

“The construction of the Wild Springs Solar Project will be a great addition to South Dakota,” said Steve Westra, commissioner of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Renewables Dominate South Dakota Generation

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said renewable resources accounted for about 82% of South Dakota’s total utility-scale electricity net generation in 2021. Wind energy supplies more than half of the state’s power generation, passing hydropower in 2021 for the first time. Solar energy projects are just starting to be developed in the state.

National Grid Renewables on Tuesday said the project will utilize next-generation Series 6 thin film solar modules developed and produced by First Solar. The two companies recently announced an agreement for National Grid Renewables to source 2 GW of solar modules from First Solar, with the units scheduled for delivery through 2025.

The Renewables Group at Ames Construction has more than a decade of experience building solar projects across the U.S. The company said it will need to hire about 250 workers during the construction phase of the project.

“Ames appreciates National Grid Renewables’ confidence in being selected as their EPC partner,” said Craig Sandeen, president of Ames Renewables. “We’re excited to be a part of building South Dakota’s largest solar project!”

Basin Electric, which serves 131 member cooperatives across nine states, in December said it has entered into a 25-year, 200-MW PPA with ENGIE North America for generation from ENGIE’s North Bend Wind project in Hughes and Hyde counties in South Dakota. The North Bend wind farm is expected to become operational later this year.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article