As the goal of a major wind power industry in South Dakota creeps closer to reality, two legislators say they will introduce bills this week to encourage local ownership of smaller wind farms.
At a news conference Tuesday in Pierre, Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, and Rep. Dan Ahlers, D-Dell Rapids, outlined their respective incentive measures.
Peterson’s bill would give renewable energy projects generating one-fifth of a megawatt to 20 megawatts a rebate on construction taxes and exempt them from property taxes for five years. But the projects must be 75 percent owned by South Dakota residents.
Ahlers’ bill would refund such renewable energy projects all sales and excise taxes if South Dakota residents or corporations have a minimum 25 percent equity.
Peterson points to Minnesota to highlight the importance of local ownership.
Enthusiasm for new wind power projects has waned there, he says, since residents saw “$95 million in profits” generated by existing wind farms returned to owners “in two foreign countries and Florida Power and Light.”
Peterson says he is not opposed to large wind power and other electrical generating projects, such as the Big Stone II coal-fired plant. Big wind-power farms make it economically feasible to build expensive transmission lines, he says, and coal-fired plants such as Big Stone II can generate a baseline amount of power throughout the day when the intermittent wind is not blowing.
“We need the big wind farms, too. Small development … will follow.”
Establishing a transmission grid in South Dakota for wind power is a large enough project it will be a federal responsibility, Ahlers says.
But he sees incentive packages as “laying the groundwork for wind development … so when the federal government catches up with us, we can take charge and be leaders.”
Joe Devito of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a major developer of wind power projects, said the federal Department of Energy estimates that in North and South Dakota “there is enough wind to power the U.S.”
By Peter Harriman
23 January 2008
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