The first large scale wind farm in Western South Dakota has received approval to move forward.
Brothers Patrick and John O’Meara with the company Wind Quarry LLC are behind the Willow Creek Wind Energy farm. They may seem like an unlikely par to start up a large scale wind farm. John O’Meara says they also have day jobs.
“I’m a chemist I work in the chemical management industry supporting manufacturing and Patrick is a family practice physician with a full time medical practice in Colorado,” says O’Meara.
John O’Meara calls the project a labor of love. His bother Patrick says it’s driven by passion to create more renewable energy.
“In our opinion it’s about the cleanest energy you can produce. There is no carbon dioxide, there is no methane, there is no nitrous oxide, there is no sulfuric acid, or sulfur products that end up going into the atmosphere. Mercury contamination which is a huge problem with other modes of generation it’s just non-existent with wind power. We really feel this is the best power for commercial generation right now,” says O’Meara.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved the permit for the wind farm in Butte County. Vice Chairmen of the P.U.C Kistie Fiegen says the Willow Creek Wind Energy farm includes 45 wind turbines going up 10 miles northeast of Newell.
“The 103-megawatt nameplate capacity wind farm that Willow Creek Wind Energy Facility has, they will have 45 wind turbines and each wind turbine generates 2.3 megawatts, that’s the capacity it has, so 45 wind turbines approximately on 40,000 acres in Butte County,” says Fiegen.
Fiegen adds that South Dakota remains a target for wind farms ranking as the fourth highest state in potential for generating wind energy.
"Wind power is certainly a generation that is becoming more affordable for us. So when we look at renewable, we want to make sure, and as a commissioner you always want to look at the economics and make sure that that renewables are economically reasonable for our rate payers, and wind energy is becoming economically feasible to put in our rate structure," says Fiegan.
Willow Creek Wind Energy farm maybe operational by 2017. It’s set to be located on one of the relatively few large transmission lines that cross rural South Dakota. O’Meara says this access to the grid is a key component of the project.