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Report: Windy S.D. not reaching its potential

Feb 12, 2007 The Associated Press

South Dakota should start working hard on wind power because it's the worst of the major wind resource states in churning out wind energy, according to the author of a study about future energy needs.

Joe Richardson's "Wind Power Dakotas" report for 2006 shows that South Dakota ranks fourth in the nation in national wind resources but 21st in wind power development.

South Dakota should think like Alaska officials did a generation ago when the state oversaw construction of a pipeline to bring oil to the lower 48 states.

"What we need is a great transmission 'pipeline' to where the centers of (energy) consumption are and really go after this," said Richardson, of Fargo, N.D. "I haven't seen that level of aggressive policy movement in either (North Dakota or South Dakota). I can understand it a little bit in North Dakota, where we do have a coal industry, but I can't understand it in South Dakota, where hydro (power) has been declining.

" Richardson has served on wind energy panels and has studied the subject for the Farm Bureau.

Americans will start avoiding energy that harms the environment because of concerns over global warming, he said.

"The real market for South Dakota wind is outside of its borders and reaching that market takes some creativity in the area of policy that has not been developed so far," Richardson said. "Our best market is Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, and in order to reach that market, we need to have a marketing arm that has yet to be put together."

There's no easy solution yet to marketing wind energy to other states, said Dusty Johnson, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission chairman.

"South Dakota is not the market for our wind. It has to be other states and frankly, Minnesota would rather buy Minnesota wind," said Johnson, of Mitchell. "We can't sell anything to Minnesota that they don't already have."

State government has reduced taxes on wind turbine sites and is speeding up the siting process, Johnson said. "We have tried to create an environment where wind power can succeed."

But South Dakota is hundreds of miles from any large population center and is not the only windy state in the Great Plains, the PUC leader said

. "We would like to see more wind (energy) in South Dakota, and I think we could without adversely affecting rate payers," he said. "I think we will see more turbines in 2007 and 2008 and hopefully, each year will be better than before. I think we're on that kind of path."

Johnson said a 40-megawatt wind farm in Hyde County is the largest in the state. A 50-megawatt wind farm is planned in Brookings County, and a 90-megawatt facility is in the works for north-central South Dakota, he said.