YOURS: Changes open door for wind, solar energy gains in state
Western South Dakota is poised to become a player in the national wind and solar market this October. This new opportunity for ranchers and farmers in our area follows the announcement by Basin Electric and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) of their integration into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) energy network.
While it’s easy to overlook everyday utility company news, this particular news should catch our attention in western South Dakota.
Our family, like most of yours, gets our monthly utility bill from a hard-working, member-owned local co-op. Our co-op gets the energy from Basin Electric, and the majority of the energy is moved along transmission lines overseen by WAPA.
While it’s often unclear who works for whom in the energy industry, what seems clear is that Basin Electric and WAPA have held the key to unlock our door into a much larger energy market. Basin and WAPA’s alliance with the SPP will allow us to sell power as far south as Texas and Louisiana, and at prices almost triple local rates. This is exactly what western South Dakota needs to jump start its entrance into the national renewable energy market.
South Dakota has the fourth-largest wind resource in the nation, yet ranks 19th in installed wind capacity. Our solar potential is on par with Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming. With newer photovoltaic technologies gaining efficiency at roughly 10 percent per year, our solar potential may outstrip our wind potential by 2020, especially west of the Missouri.