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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wind Power: Transmission Is Not a Problem

...except for someone's business model...

Looks like I need to keep reminding people that it's not the lack of transmission lines that stand in the way of developing wind power in South Dakota and promoting energy independence: it's a lack of imagination.

KELO repeats the standard line about how we won't get more windmills until we get more transmission lines, this time from Michael Trykoski, chairman of the board of the South Dakota Energy Infrastructure Authority. He speaks of the "major hurdles in turning wind energy into large-scale electricity." The SDEIA's homepage talks about our commitment to becoming a "net energy exporter."

Sure, if wind power is just part of a business model, then we face challenges. If wind power is just a commodity to sell, then we need transmission lines to reach the bigger market.

But we don't have to wait for wind power to be a money-maker. We can get to work right now making it a money-saver, not to mention an environment saver. If we start putting up windmills near our schools and factories and other local facilities, we can reduce our use of power from coal-fired plants and other messier sources.

Look at it this way: So transmission lines cost a million dollars a mile. We could spend $100 million running one big line from Wessington Springs to the Minnesota border, or we could spend a million dollars to hook one hundred communities up to one hundred small wind farms, each a mile out of town. Then those towns reduce their dependence on energy from polluting sources and over time, start saving money.

Why aren't the bigwigs on energy policy promoting that course of action? Here's one explanation: consider that Mr. Trykoski, SDEIA chair, is also a current member of the Board of Directors of the Utility Shareholders of South Dakota. And the last thing shareholders and the utility companies from which they expect increasing dividends would want is for us to use less energy from their profitable power plants. Make our own electricity? Egads! That would cut into their business model. Make more electricity that they can commoditize and export so we can keep importing their power? That's where the money is.

I don't mind folks wanting to make a profit. (I'd love to make one myself someday!) But I do mind when the profit mindset keeps our elected (and, in Mr. Trykoski's case, appointed) officials from seeing positive, practical solutions that would promote South Dakota's energy independence.


  1. It appears that the current suppliers of electricity show interest in wind power and there's talk of wind farms, but not much real action, probably because they've not yet figured out how to make money with wind. Wind power in California and other states is so far ahead of South Dakota. Rather than rewrite the book, let's read their book and duplicate it using the latest technology. I agree that starting small with some City-owned utilities (like Madison) across the state, putting up a small wind farm outside those communities and weaning ourselves off electric wholesalers would be a great first move. Maybe set up a 40-year low-interest loan for infrastructure and create another industry for Madison.

  2. http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080225/UPDATES/80225046

    This was in the Argus Leader website today.....Kind of different from the Hyperion and Transcanada deals isn't it?

  3. http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=

    This was in the Argus Leader website today.....Kind of different from his stance with Hyperion and Transcanada deals isn't it?

  4. You're right, jusbskt -- the governor isn't cheering quite so hard for wind power as for those Big Oil moneymakers, is he? Though note the governor did push the second South Dakota income tax, HB 1320, to tax wind farms based on a productivity formula instead of regular property value, just like the deal food farms are getting in HB 1005.


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