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Ardor welcome on wind energy; But state official calls Obama’s estimates ‘overly generous’  

Sen. Barack Obama is “overly generous” in suggesting that South Dakota wind energy could meet half the nation’s need for electricity, a state utilities official says.

Public Utilities Commission Chairman Gary Hanson also says it’s gratifying that the issue is part of the presidential debate as Obama competes with Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“It’s great to see that enthusiasm and the conversation in a presidential race,” said Hanson, a Republican. “Let’s forgive them a little bit for some of the overenthusiasm.”

During a visit last week to Sioux Falls, Obama touted the potential of wind and other renewable energy sources. In an interview with the Argus Leader, he called wind energy “a terrific tool for economic development, especially in rural areas and places like South Dakota, where we could generate as much as half, the equivalent of half of the electricity needs of the United States just from wind power here in South Dakota.”

That’s “overly generous,” Hanson said, an assessment supported by information from the American Wind Energy Association. It could take up to 500,000 turbines across the state to produce the amount of electricity Obama suggested, he said.

It’s generally accepted in the industry that wind energy realistically can supply 20 percent to 30 percent of a power system’s needs, Hanson said.

“There will be times when the wind simply will not blow,” he said. Hanson represents South Dakota on the steering committee of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative.

He said Obama correctly identified a federal tax credit as essential to developing U.S. wind power. The senator also noted that more transmission lines are needed for the industry to grow, Hanson said.

The national wind-energy group cites a study by the Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab, that concluded wind energy realistically could supply about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. The study also said wind energy resources could be found in nearly every state.

North Dakota is the nation’s leader in wind-energy potential, according to the AWEA.

“North Dakota alone is theoretically capable (if there were enough transmission capacity) of producing enough wind-generated power to meet more than a fourth of U.S. electricity demand,” the association’s Web site says.

The association says North Dakota has the potential to produce up to 1,210 billion kilowatt hours of wind power a year. Texas ranks second in potential, 1,190 billion kWh, with Kansas third at 1,070 and South Dakota fourth at 1,030.

Terry Woster

Argus Leader

23 May 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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