Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative will purchase electricity from a solar farm slated near Rapid City, S.D.

The co-op announced the power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy on Tuesday. Geronimo is the developer of the Wild Springs Solar Project, which, with a capacity of 128 megawatts, would become the largest solar farm in South Dakota once built.

"For the first time in its history, Basin Electric will buy solar generation on a large scale to serve our members," Basin CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut said in a statement. "The board's decision to add solar generation to our resource portfolio is to continue with our all-of-the-above strategy, as well as solar generation becoming a more economic energy source."

An "all-of-the-above" strategy is a common phrase among North Dakotans involved in the energy sector meant to describe an approach that incorporates both fossil fuels and renewables into meeting energy needs.

The Wild Springs solar farm still requires local and state approvals in South Dakota, Basin spokeswoman Joan Dietz said. The facility would be 20 miles east of Rapid City in Pennington County. It's scheduled to start operating in 2022, according to Basin.

The co-op estimates that the project would result in more than $17 million in economic benefits during the first 20 years of its life via tax revenue, jobs and charitable funds. An education fund established through the project would give $500,000 in donations to local school districts, Basin said.

Geronimo is the same company proposing the 200-megawatt Harmony solar farm in Cass County.

"Historically, there has been a misconception that solar in the northern regions of the United States wasn't feasible," Geronimo President David Reamer said. "Both Geronimo and Basin Electric recognized that the addition of solar to its overall generation fleet not only offers customers a clean, economic option for their electricity, but it also diversifies a utility's portfolio."

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