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Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. On Tuesday, the Civic Center finalized a contract with Black Hills Energy that it will be completely powered by renewable wind energy for the next 20 years.

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center finalized a contract with Black Hills Energy on Tuesday. Under the terms of the contract, the civic center will be completely powered by renewable wind energy for the next 20 years. 

The contract is a 20-year agreement comprised of automatically renewing one-year contracts that remain in effect unless one of the parties provides a 90-day written notice of withdrawal.

The Rapid City venue is among the first to take part in the Renewable Ready program. Customers in the program take advantage of the power that will be generated by the Corriedale wind farm that Black Hills Energy is building outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. Civic center directors said that the complex will be powered solely with energy generated by the $57 million plant.

The two parties began discussions to switch the civic center to wind power more than a year ago.

The annual cost of powering the facility won't change much, but the fact that all of the power consumed there is renewable is expected to provide some marketing advantages. 

Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer said Tuesday that the civic center is working on energy efficiencies in the new arena, as well.

"Not many people know this but it makes sense," Baltzer said. "In the world of the arts, there are more and more shows that are asking about energy efficiency in the building. When they ask those questions now, we can explain the changes we have made and things like this that we have done."

The Rapid City Parks Department and Public Library are also part of the agreement that will consume at least 300,000 kWh from the new wind farm each year. Even if the civic center were to become so energy efficient that it no longer required that much energy each year, other entities within the city would be able to pick up the slack.

"We aren't taking this on ourselves with a sole risk," Deputy Director Tracy Heitsch said. "There is always some risk, but in this case the risk is very small."

That isn't expected to be a problem.

"I have never seen our usage go down," Baltzer said. "I have seen the growth plateau a little bit but we have never gone backward. That risk is pretty minimal."

The board voted to approve the agreement unanimously with Chairman Dan Kline abstaining, because he is employed by Black Hills Energy.

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