A wind farm planned for northern Clark County must keep towers a minimum of 3,960 feet from residences, according to a Monday decision in Watertown by Third Circuit Court Judge Carmen Means.
The project, known as the Crocker Wind Farm, is planned by Geronimo Energy of Minneapolis. When completed it would sprinkle 200 towers in the known as the Crocker Hills and generate 400 megawatts of energy.
If completed it would be the biggest wind farm in South Dakota.
Clark County Commissioners approved the project, but the development hit a snag when citizens within the five-township area demanded that any tower be placed a minimum of three-quarters of a mile from a residence.
The commissioners agreed, and Geronimo took their decision to court. Means ruled in favor of the commission.
County zoning rules originally called for a minimum 1,000-foot setback from residences, but according to Commissioner Francis Hass, the commission didn't do enough homework before allowing a 2,000-foot minimum setback for the 11-tower Oak Tree Project built four miles north of the Clark a few years ago.
"We absolutely don't want to kill wind energy," Hass said. "We just didn't look good enough when we put in the first set. Those towers are fine with the exception of being too close to a residence.
"Towers do make noise, and when the weather is right they make a lot of noise."
A voicemail was left with Geronimo Energy late Monday afternoon but no return call was received before presstime today.
Jean Stevens, who calls herself a concerned citizen, was in favor of the decision. She and husband Shad Stevens have a farm within the 31,000-acre section of Clark County where the towers would be located.
"This just proves that local government works," said Stevens. "It's taken care of its people."
Geronimo won't be the only party disappointed by Means’ ruling. A Feb. 8 story in the Clark County Courier covered the commission meeting where citizens voiced their opposition or support of the project, which will bring financial gains to the county.
'Several who spoke stated that this wind project has pitted friends against friends, neighbors against neighbors and family against family,' the Courier reported.
Geronimo's website says that the fully completed project in one year will pay $1.2 million to land owners, $40,000 to the county and have a $54 million impact over 20 years.
"I don't know if it's over," Hass said when asked if he thinks Geronimo will appeal Means' decision. "I just wish they (Geronimo) would accept the ruling and start building."