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Sunday, June 13, 2010

SD Wind Farms Growing; Aberdeen News Blows Conservative Smoke

So I'm reading through a nice little article in the Aberdeen American News about the continued growth of wind farms in South Dakota. 413 megawatts installed, another 300 megawatts under construction, still lagging other states, need for transmission and customers to drive more development... the usual. Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson does note that by the end of the year, South Dakota will have enough wind power capacity to keep the lights and laptops on in more than half of our homes. Not bad!

But then I hit a speed-reading bump:

Many planned wind farms were going to tap into the Big Stone II coal-burning power plant that was going to be build near Milbank. Before it was stymied by out-of-state environmental groups, it was to include extra transmission capacity for locally produced wind energy [Emily Arthur-Richardt and Scott Waltman, "Slowly growing: Wind farms gradually increasing in South Dakota," Aberdeen American News, 2010.06.13].

What?!? The allegedly objective professional journalists of the AAN get to drop this ideological talking point into their report as an unsubstantiated dependent clause? Did Emily crib this line from AAN salesman and conservative blogger Dan? Is all of South Dakota's press in bed with the fossil-fuel industry?

For the umpteenth time: Big Stone II was not killed by hippies, Luddites, or envirowhackos. Big Stone II died because backers failed to make the business case. Project backers consistently underestimated costs. Otter Tail and other investors saw they could meet growing power demand with wind and conservation for less cost than sinking money into a big new coal plant. Their thinking matched the thinking of sober-eyed capitalists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who see big fossil fuel projects don't promise a sustainable return on investment.

And for what it's worth, environmentalists were trying to help by pushing to pass a clear energy policy, but Senator John Thune and his obstructionist pals have held up the legislation that the Big Stone backers themselves were saying would have been good for their project.

Of course, the loss of Big Stone II was not accompanied by the sound of wind turbines grinding to a halt. Killing Big Stone II was good for wind power, for the environment and the economy. One report says there's twice as much new wind power in development in Minnesota than would have been generated by Big Stone II. Just last month, Dakota Wind Energy received initial approval to use 300 megawatts of the transmission reserved for Big Stone II. Onward and upward, thanks to entrepreneurs and environmentalists who won't let ideology (or biased press) stop them from getting the job done.

Update 2010.06.16: But wait, there's more: The PUC just approved another South Dakota wind farm, Basin Electric's PrairieWinds SD1. With 101 turbines turning out 150 megawatts, PrairieWinds SD1 will succeed Basin Electric's big North Dakota wind farm as the largest cooperative-owned wind farm in the U.S. They'll build 13 miles of new transmission to hook into WAPA's current grid.

1 comment:

  1. The Aberdeen American News lost its status as a legitimate journalistic operation years ago. While it can retain its right to a status as journalism by confining its political bias to its editorial page, it has consistently used its news space to publish the kind of factually wrong, wingnut propaganda you note in the wind generator story. I am among those do not subscribe because of its unreliability and incompetence. In the 1980s the old Northwest Data Base journalism reviewed cited it as one of the Midwest's worst newspapers. It has steadfastly maintained that reputation.


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