County Commission discusses need to prepare for wind and solar energy systems
Tue, 05/30/2023 - 2:41pm admin
With the increase in solar panel farms cropping up in certain sunshiny locales and the possibility of one coming soon to northwestern South Dakota, Perkins County commissioners are preparing to get some ordinances in place so that they have some power to regulate where the panels could be placed. The same is true for wind turbines.
Having ordinances in place would protect county roads; how the structures would be decommissioned when their shelf life expires; and also could protect the people who would potentially become neighbors to solar panels and /or wind turbines.
Lysann Zeller, representing Black Hills Council of Local Governments, of which Perkins County is a dues-paying member, offered an hour-long presentation for the Board of County Commissioners during a special meeting last Tuesday afternoon. She said, “Solar actually is coming on quicker than wind now.”
Preparing for that discussion, Zeller had sent copies of ordinances already approved by other South Dakota counties, including Harding, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington west of the river.
She urged the Perkins County board to pick one of those ordinances that they most liked and then to customize it to suit their own needs. She admitted that “it’s a lot to get through,” and “this stuff gets complicated.” She’s willing to assist them in writing their ordinance.
In her presentation, Zeller offered a fact sheet as to the size of both wind turbines and solar panels, how much space is required for each and the life expectancy of each.
She showed a long list of regulations governing the sites, including off-site considerations. For example, there’s a shadow flicker from turbine blades during certain times of the day. How would that affect the people who live in the area? What about solar glare from solar panels? Are damaged haul roads brought back to their original condition after heavy trucks tear them up? What about nearby airports, permitting, engineering, etc? The list goes on and on.
Perkins County did develop a Comprehensive Plan back in 2014 which has paved the way for them to now write ordinances and also zoning laws. That plan allows the county to review proposed developments within its jurisdiction that could have negative impacts on agricultural lands and environmentally sensitive areas.
Moving forward may require the formation of a planning commission. There was one in place in 2014 but some of those same people may no longer be available or that commission’s duties may have expired. County Finance Officer Sara Stadler will research that.
Visitor Roxie Seamans, Prairie City, said that she was “very happy” to know that the county commission is concerned. Chairman Kyle Carmichael ended the conversation. “We’re very interested in getting something in place,” he said.
The only other agenda item on Tuesday’s short afternoon meeting was to accept the resignation of two county employees – Isaac Jones, operator, and Katie Helms, administrative assistant, both from the highway department.