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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Nov. 14, 2008
CONTACT:  Leah Mohr, Communications Manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

Wind energy developers pledge $20,000 to Wind for Schools program

PIERRE, S.D. – Wind energy developers Babcock & Brown and Iberdrola Renewables have each pledged $10,000 to help support the South Dakota Wind for Schools program, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission announced. The funds will be used to defray some construction expenses associated with installing small wind turbines at schools participating in the program. Babcock & Brown is the developer of the Wessington Springs Wind Farm; Iberdrola Renewables is the developer of the MinnDakota Wind Farm and the Buffalo Ridge I Wind Farm, both in Brookings County.

In August, the PUC announced the selection of eight school districts to participate in the Wind for Schools program: Sanborn Central, Douglas in Box Elder, Faith, Selby, Aberdeen, Elkton, Stanley County and Memorial Middle School in Sioux Falls. The first turbine, installed on the campus of Sanborn Central in Forestburg, was dedicated Oct. 29. The others are expected to be erected in the coming months. The 1.8-kilowatt turbines and accompanying science curriculum are intended to provide hands-on alternative energy education to students.

"We are extremely pleased by the generosity of Babcock & Brown and Iberdrola Renewables," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Their financing will really help schools that may be feeling a pinch because of unexpected increases in the cost of construction materials," he stated.

Local electric utility companies were early proponents of the South Dakota Wind for Schools program offering in-kind services and financial assistance to the school selected from their service area. Utility partners include Central Electric Cooperative, Black Hills Power, Missouri River Energy Services/City of Faith Electric Department, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., NorthWestern Energy, Otter Tail Power Company, West Central Electric Cooperative and Xcel Energy. The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have also been instrumental in the South Dakota Wind for Schools program. Other utilities, including Heartland Consumers Power District, are exploring wind turbine sites at additional schools throughout South Dakota.

"It's exciting for us at the PUC to encourage these kinds of partnerships among various organizations," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "The PUC, the Department of Energy, the state's electric utility providers, the schools and now, wind developers, are contributing to the success of this program."

"The folks at Babcock & Brown and Iberdrola Renewables were more than willing to give their support to what they agree is a great project for South Dakota and the wind industry in general," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "We may well see students from these schools working at South Dakota wind farms one day," he commented.

The PUC has served as the Wind for Schools state facilitator for about 18 months. As the initial facilitator, the PUC coordinated the school application process, secured financial commitments from industry partners and worked with South Dakota State University to establish it as the program's Wind Application Center. Now that the Wind for Schools program has been successfully launched in the state, the role of state facilitator is being transitioned to Steve Wegman of Pierre. Wegman will work with the schools and local communities at the direction of NREL.