PIERRE --—For the first time in South Dakota a small wind farm has succeeded in using a federal law to force a utility company to agree to buy electricity from the wind farm’s turbines.
The family-run company is based in Clark County. Its proposed wind farm is within NorthWestern’s service territory.
Oak Tree Energy attempted in 2010 to negotiate with NorthWestern. The utility refused to buy the power, saying the additional electricity wasn’t necessary.
Oak Tree Energy turned to the PUC in April 2011. Oak Tree used a federal law known as the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 as the basis for its complaint.
Four of the family members behind Oak Tree were in the meeting room Tuesday.
The scene was similar to two weeks ago as the four Makens — Michael, Bill, Pat and James — silently watched while the three state commissioners negotiated with each other on the final factors setting how much NorthWestern must pay Oak Tree each year.
The commission initially made its decisions months ago, when they ordered the two sides to reach a contract, but NorthWestern last month persuaded the commission to reconsider several points.
Those were resolved Tuesday in several split votes.
Commissioners Gary Hanson and Kristie Fiegen favored recommendations made by staff member Brian Rounds rather than new recommendations offered by commissioner Chris Nelson.