Wind energy development a benefit for South Dakota

A recent My Voice titled, “Xcel Energy industrial wind zone is bad for SD citizens,” missed the mark on the economic opportunities that wind development can provide to eastern South Dakota. The column fails to recognize the very real benefits that additional wind energy development, including the recent proposal from Xcel Energy, will produce for South Dakotans, and dramatically mischaracterizes the level of support for wind energy in Minnesota.

Xcel Energy’s plan to purchase a 600MW wind project in Codington, Deuel, and Grant counties will produce significant savings for Xcel Energy’s customers throughout the Midwest. Their announcement states this project, combined with several others in our region, will provide a savings of $4 billion – yes, billion – over the life of the projects for their customers, which include nearly 100,000 South Dakotans. While wind companies are currently taking advantage of the federal incentives to develop wind projects (which are in year three of a 5-year phase-out), these savings are passed directly to ratepayers. Utilities across the Midwest are recognizing that wind power is often the cheapest source of new generation and provides a very valuable hedge against the volatility of fossil fuel prices.

Xcel Energy is also proposing to add significant new wind resources in Minnesota. When I talk with county commissioners in rural Minnesota, they want to know when the next wind project is coming because they need additional revenue to help fund a new municipal building, pay for road upgrades, or hold the line on a property tax increase. In fact, Mower County, Minn., home to a significant amount of wind power, receives over $1.6 million annually, and that number is growing as they invest in more local wind power. Statewide, wind companies now pay out over $10 million per year to local governments. That’s above and beyond the significant influx of revenue for farmers and family-supporting jobs that have been created in the sector. The “hard lesson” they have learned is that wind energy is an economic engine for greater Minnesota.

The author references a specific bill in Minnesota that would be disastrous for wind development in the state, but fails to mention that policymakers are well-aware that this proposal is bad for rural Minnesota and the bill has not and will not receive even a public hearing. A much more serious proposal championed by the Dayton administration, which has bipartisan support at the Legislature, is to increase the state’s renewable energy requirement to 50 percent by 2030, ensuring continued investment in wind power in Minnesota. There is also legislation moving forward, which has received multiple public hearings and enjoys bipartisan support, which would streamline the permitting process for renewable energy and make it easier for companies to invest in wind projects located in Minnesota. The reality is that an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans support additional wind development in our state.

There is tremendous opportunity on the horizon for S.D. and Xcel Energy’s recent announcement is just the start. S.D. has world-class potential for wind development, which means major investment of private capital in rural communities, new sources of stable tax revenue for local governments and schools, and new jobs for South Dakotans. That’s something we should all be able to support.


Chris Kunkle, Roseville, Minn., is the regional policy manager-West, for Wind on the Wires, which works to create new opportunities for renewables to participate in the energy marketplace in nine Midwestern States. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.

Chris Kunkle