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New rules by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that make it easier for small electricity generators such as wind turbines and solar panels to connect to the electric grid were approved by the Legislative Rules Review Committee. The rules will be effective at the end of this month.

The new rules streamline the interconnection process for small generators that produce up to 10 MW of electricity by providing consistent engineering requirements, as well as predictable and reasonable fees and timelines among the state's six investor-owned utilities.

Previously, each utility allowed small generators to connect to its electric distribution system according to company-specific policies that varied from company to company. The statewide rules simplify the process and remove barriers to encourage energy development, particularly renewable energy.

Small generator facilities that produce up to 10 MW of electricity will be able to use standard application forms and legal agreements. Expedited reviews for smaller projects are also part of the new rules.

"Certainly, this is a positive step for wind energy development," says Steve Kolbeck, vice chairman of the PUC. "Energy producers using solar, anaerobic digestion or small combustion turbines will benefit as well. Engineers, operations managers, utility analysts and legal experts familiar with these resources made significant contributions to the development of these rules."

The regulated utilities - Black Hills Power, MidAmerican Energy Co., Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., NorthWestern Energy, Otter Tail Power Co. and Xcel Energy – as well as the Environmental Law & Policy Center had a hand in crafting the rules. Representatives of these companies and PUC staff held negotiations beginning in 2007 that included workshops, reviews of other states’ rules and comments from the distributed generation community.

SOURCE: South Dakota Public Utilities Commission

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