We frequently hear about the potential of wind energy in South Dakota. We have steady winds on the plains with plenty of land for “wind farms.” Businesses large and small are cropping up to help harvest the power of the wind, and state government is eager to push forward.
Technology is improving, and the financial viability has gotten somewhat more competitive with other energy sources, although today wind-generated electricity is still noticeably more expensive.
The second large wind farm in south Dakota is scheduled to produce electricity by the end of the year near Elkton. Thirty-four turbines nearly a football field tall will be in South Dakota.
At the same time, we’ve seen more smaller turbines that produce electricity on a small scale. The city of Howard, the Pipestone area school district, Carleton College in Minnesota and others are just examples of smaller wind facilities.
We’re still curious when we pass these sites, and sometimes slow down to take a better look. But we also wonder if the time is coming soon when the view of windmills will no longer be a curiosity but an annoyance.
Imagine dozens, or even hundreds, of wind turbines in this area. We love the beauty of our region and think of how it would look if such tall turbines were on the horizon at sunset, or partially block the view of a favorite lake or slough.
This isn’t to say we don’t support the wind energy industry. We do. But just like the time came to establish zoning laws for livestock facilities or for manufacturing facilities, we think the time has come to establish statewide zoning for wind towers.
There are certainly many good locations for wind farms, but we must recognize that there are also places that don’t make sense. Let’s figure out which is which before mass construction of wind facilities really takes off.
By JON M. HUNTER, Publisher
9 October 2007