South Dakota: Wind power provide powerful solution

In the past two years, wind power companies have spent more than $1 billion on infrastructure in South Dakota. And plans for new or expanded wind farms in the years to come could make that amount look small, said Dusty Johnson, a state Public Utilities commissioner.

But before the new wind farm undertakings become reality, South Dakota, in fact the entire nation, has to address an old problem: how to move the power that wind turbines generate to parts of the country where it’s needed. Without an improved transmission grid, some of the wind farm projects slated for the state will never be built.

Unfortunately, the solution is not a simple one. Adding transmission capacity is expensive, and nobody, not private companies, regional utilities nor government agencies, wants to pay for the bulk of the work.

A proposal for what’s called the Green Power Express, high-voltage lines that would ship electricity produced in the Dakotas and other states to the Chicago area, is seemingly the simplest solution. But the concept comes with a price tag of between $10 billion and $12 billion. And the permitting process is bound to be slow.

In the past, states have often paid for transmission lines built within their boundaries. But there’s no reason Great Plains residents should have to pay for power lines that would benefit states to the east. And maybe they won’t have to.

We agree with Johnson that a proposal that would spread 80 percent of the cost of the power lines over multiple states based on load would be good for South Dakota.

Utility providers and state officials in South Dakota generally work well together. They need to do so again in an attempt to garner support for the pay-by-load idea from Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. That’s key in moving the project forward.

The process is complex, but vital. Thankfully, both the producers and consumers of electricity seem to agree that paying for transmission lines should be more of a regional and less of a local undertaking in the future.

If the Green Power Express becomes reality, metropolitan centers would have a cheap, reliable source of electricity while the Dakotas and neighboring states would benefit from continued economic development — capital investment, taxes paid and job creation. It’s a win-win proposition that could help the nation’s insatiable thirst for electricity.

Editorial, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.,