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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wind Experts Focus on Solutions, See Better Opportunity Without Big Stone II

Badlands Blue does a fine job of dissecting the continuing pro-coal smokescreen at Dakota War College. On a day when the new about wind power is nothing but optimistic, DWC's Pat Powers can only seethe and whine about "enviro-nuts and the Obama administration" killing the coal-fired Big Stone II power plant and thus destroying the chance to build the transmission lines we supposedly need to build wind power in South Dakota.

PP may be addicted to that narrative, but that's not the story any of the experts were telling yesterday. At a meeting of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association in Pierre yesterday, SDWEA board president Jeff Nelson (a Madison guy!) said the group is studying the possible development of 1000 megawatts of wind power in eastern South Dakota to sell to Minnesota. Larry Flowers of the National Wind Technology Center told the meeting that South Dakota could "reasonably" develop 8000 megawatts of wind power, producing an economic impact of $9 billion and 4000 new jobs.

Nine billion dollars, 4000 jobs—holy cow! No wonder the SDWEA isn't moaning about the death of Big Stone II the way the naysaying Republican spinmeisters are. The folks who really want wind are focused on going for the gold, not scoring political points with a false narrative.

Big Stone II promised only 600 megawatts of power. If that was enough to entice developers to build transmission lines, 8000 megawatts of clean wind power ought to have the line-builders salivating. Lisa Daniels, executive director of the Minnesota wind power grop Windustry, says that the demise of Big Stone II actually boosts wind power development:

...She pointed out that the lines were to be built primarily to carry power from the coal-fired plant.

There were questions about how much capacity would actually be available for wind power on the lines, she said. Many also wondered if the “synergy’’ promised in a partnership between a base-load, coal plant and wind farms would be as beneficial as promised, Daniels said. She believes that wind energy will have more opportunity to grow by serving the market that Big Stone II would have supplied [Tom Cheverny, "Big Stone power plant plans go down, but will the lines still go up?" West Central Tribune, 2009.11.12].

The GOP narrative that environmentalists and Obama killed Big Stone II and hurt wind power is not just false; it's useless. Wind energy experts and promoters aren't writhing on the floor agonizing over this supposed setback. They're recognizing the opportunities to build their industry, boost America's energy security, and help the environment.

Flowers also noted that wind makes the utilities nervous because wind is a valuable resource they can't control. Why does that not surprise me? Contrary to Steve Sibson's unquestioning faith in the free market, an unfettered market does not always seek the best solutions. Sometimes big businesses manipulate the market to prevent the positive innovations that would put them out of business.


  1. The final blow to the Big Stone II project came when Otter Tail Power Company announced its withdrawal, both as a participating utility and lead developer. They cited uncertainties in the credit markets along with concern that climate change legislation might impact the plant in the future. That's a market-based decision. Clean energy offers new opportunities for emerging markets, and South Dakota has an excellent resource base with wind power.

    Read more at Windustry:

  2. Cory -

    I believe the mewling, puling and general hysteria is your bailiwick.

    All I pointed out is that with the loss of BSII, they're on their own for the additional transmission lines needed to bring their product to market.


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