By Mary C. Hunt
A public meeting was held on Monday, December 10, 2018, at the Martin Activity Center to discuss plans for Pass Creek Wind, a utility-scale wind energy project planned for Bennett County north of Martin. Approximately 35 people attended the meeting including Bennett County Commissioners, local ranchers and members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
7G Renewable Energy, a partnership between the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (OSPA) and Apex Clean Energy, will develop the renewable energy project. OSPA is a non-profit comprised of the Cheyenne River, Flandreau Santee, Oglala, Rosebud, Standing Rock and Yankton tribes to develop tribal renewable energy resources and will have a 51 percent stake in 7G Renewable Energy. Apex Clean Energy is a Charlottesville, Va. renewable energy company which has developed more than 3,100 megawatts of energy since its 2009 founding.
According to Caroline Herron, a representative with 7G Renewable Energy, “The project will generate 120 megawatts of energy through up to 35 wind turbines spread across roughly 32,500 acres of land in the Pass Creek District of the Pine Ridge Reservation.” That is enough electricity to power more than 50,000 average U.S. homes. “Turbines will be located on a combination of tribal and allotted trust land and privately-owned fee land, with financial benefits generated for the Tribe, private landowners and Bennett County,” stated Herron.
“Pass Creek Wind is in the early stages of development,” said Brenna Gunderson, Director of Development for Apex Clean Energy. “These projects typically take several years to develop and require a lot of studies, planning and working with landowners before we start building. Yet, we are excited by the early support we see from the Tribe, landowners in the project area, and potential offtake partners.”
Currently 7G is focused on collecting wind data, commissioning a two-year avian survey to be conducted by Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc., beginning lease conversations and listening to stakeholders. The four-year plan to bring Pass Creek Wind online includes more avian studies, archeological and cultural surveys, environmental studies, sound and shadow studies, and geotechnical studies before any construction planning would take place. Barring any unexpected events, construction is scheduled to begin in 2021 and will take six to nine months, employing 200-250 workers. Workforce development at local colleges is part of the 7G plan. Energizing of the turbines is planned for October 2021.
“The Oglala Lakota people have always been concerned stewards of the earth, and we are excited to bring economic development, jobs and clean energy to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the greater Bennett County area,” said Lyle Jack, OSPA Board Chairman and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “By working together, the tribes are focused on developing renewable energy resources to protect our planet, support our communities, and create opportunities for future generations.”
According to Apex, in the long-term, Pass Creek Wind is expected to provide employment opportunities during construction, significant investments in roads and local infrastructure, and up to 10 full time careers for turbine technicians as well as tax revenue for Bennett County. In the near future, OSPA plans to open an office in Bennett County.
7G Renewable Energy is also developing Ta’teh Topah, an $800 million, 450 megawatt wind project on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
A second meeting was to be held Tuesday, December 11 in conjunction with the Pass Creek District Council meeting at the Allen CAP office.