Wild Springs: South Dakota’s Largest Solar Farm Powers Up

What?

South Dakota’s largest solar farm, Wild Springs, has recently become operational in Pennington County. With a capacity of 128 megawatts (MW), it is set to generate enough clean electricity to power 37,000 homes annually while avoiding 190,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Why does it matter?

Wild Springs is expected to have a significant economic impact, bringing $29.5 million in direct economic benefits over the first 20 years of operation. Additionally, the solar farm has a power purchase agreement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative and plans to contribute $500,000 in charitable giving to the local New Underwood school district. This move towards renewable energy signifies a step towards sustainability in a state primarily known for its wind energy production.

Despite being a newcomer in the solar energy sector, South Dakota is making strides towards increasing its renewable energy capacity. The state currently has 268 MW of installed solar capacity and ranks 42nd in the nation for solar installations. While solar power is not projected to expand significantly, wind power in the state remains strong, representing 55% of South Dakota’s total in-state net generation in 2022. With renewable resources accounting for 84% of the state’s electricity net generation, it showcases a promising shift towards cleaner energy sources.

Basin Electric’s decision to diversify its energy portfolio by incorporating solar power aligns with their strategy of including various energy sources such as coal, natural gas, and wind. The utility’s investment in solar energy comes in conjunction with plans to build a major natural gas-fired power generation facility in North Dakota. This development highlights the utility’s commitment to embracing a mix of energy resources to meet the region’s power needs.

How is it going to shape the future?

The establishment of Wild Springs marks a significant milestone in South Dakota’s renewable energy journey, demonstrating the state’s potential for harnessing solar power alongside its existing wind resources. As the focus on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions grows, initiatives like Wild Springs pave the way for a more diverse and eco-friendly energy landscape. By integrating solar energy into its power generation mix, South Dakota is taking a step towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.