South Dakota wind farm proponents not giving up on plans

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TYNDALL, S.D. (AP) — The company proposing a wind farm near Avon has not given up on its project despite strong opposition from the community and a change in the status of its application to build the wind power system.

Roland Jurgens, project manager for Prevailing Winds, the Dell Rapids-based company that's proposing the project, told the Bon Homme County Zoning Board and community members Monday that the company is "re-evaluating" the project that called for 100 wind turbines. The meeting came less than a week after the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission accepted the company's request to withdraw its state permit application to build the project, which would cover 36,000 acres in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties.

"We hope that we can build it, but there's no guarantees," Jurgens said.

The project would have generated about up to 860,000 MWh annually of electric power, which would be equivalent to 10 Bon Homme-Yankton rural electric cooperatives.

Critics of the project have voiced a number of concerns including aesthetics, funding questions and health worries over the turbines' vibrations. The considerable opposition, including a five-hour PUC public input meeting in Avon last month, influenced the company's decision to request the withdrawal; its motion cited misinformation surrounding the project.

Jurgens, however, said Monday he believes the project has supporters as determined by the attendees who were wearing "I heart wind" stickers during last month's meeting.

"I think those people didn't feel comfortable speaking in front of the crowd," he said. "They represent the silent majority."

Jurgens said that if the company decides to pursue the project, there would be some changes, though the land it would occupy would likely remain the same.

"Technology is changing. When we first sat down, we were looking at 100-117 turbines," Jurgens said. "Then, (manufacturers) made a new set of turbines coming out. If we have the right technology, we would work with 80 turbines and keep the generating capacity the same."

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