SD’s Pine Ridge Reservation Approved for $100M Solar Project

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota will be the site of a $100 million solar electricity generation project.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission this week approved the Lookout Solar Park for property about 80 miles from Rapid City.

To build the state’s first large scale solar facility, a German company will lease the land from the Rapp family.

Lynn Rapp is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who represents the family and hopes the historic project will be an example for other Native American reservations.

“And then know that when a dollar is spent, it turns over seven times in the community where it is used and our reservation towns are desperate for cash,” she states.

The lease agreement is the first of its kind for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The company involved with the reservation to build the solar project has agreed to follow 37 conditions during construction related to restoration, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources reporting and other requirements.

The Pine Ridge project, capable of generating up to 110 megawatts of electricity, will have 500,000 solar panels in arrays across 250 acres.

Rapp says there’s more than 800 acres at the site, and eventually she’d also like to see a wind farm built there.

“There will be 200 to 400 jobs provided while we are in construction, and we will be training people while they’re working and we give Indian preference, according to the federal law,” she points out.

Rapp hopes once Native people are trained to work on solar installations, they will use those skills to build similar projects.

The solar facility is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2021.

(South Dakota currently ranks 50th nationally in installed solar generating capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.)

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