Hughes County stalls wind farm projects to study ordinances

PIERRE (AP) — Officials in a central South Dakota county have put a six-month moratorium on any wind energy development until they can study and maybe change local ordinances.
The Hughes County Commission made the decision earlier this month, after several ranchers and farmers in the eastern part of the county and western Hyde County leased land to a California company planning to develop two wind farms south of Harrold.
Hughes County Manager Kevin Hipple said the commission recently heard Infinity Renewables was making deals with landowners. He said one landowner contacted the commission worried about whether local ordinances protected landowners.
Commission Chairman Norm Weaver said things have changed since ordinances were written about eight or nine years ago. Weaver and other commissioners agreed it would be a good idea to look at what other counties are doing, including increasing “setbacks,” which are the distances between wind turbines and homes, roads or other things nearby.
Commissioner Tom Tveit said he has a relative with a cattle operation in North Dakota where a wind-energy company built a large turbine in the middle of a new cattle gate
“That’s not being a good neighbor,” Tveit said.
But he said he doesn’t want to stand in the way of economic development. Tveit said he wants the county to quickly update its zoning ordinances for wind farms.
Dave Mabene, land agent for Infinity Renewables, said the delay wouldn’t impose on the project.
“We will not be able to move on these projects within a six-month time frame,” he told the commission.
Mabene said he and Christine White, a project developer for Infinity, attended the public hearing to find out how they can help. Infinity has worked on several projects in the Midwest, including a 52-turbines wind farm near Hebron, North Dakota, that began generating power a few months ago.
Infinity is eager to develop two projects south of Harrold because “this is where the wind blows,” White said.


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