Varied reactions to newly proposed South Dakota wind farms

Published: Jun. 20, 2016 at 6:30 PM CDT
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Beginning July 1st, the state of South Dakota will change the way tax from wind farms and other renewable energy sources are distributed.

Over the past decade, wind farms have become a big business in the region, taking advantage of some of the great natural resources in the area.

So even the tax changes begin, several new wind farm projects are being proposed around the state, but communities tend to have varying reactions.

“As with any location for a potential wind farm, we are looking at lot of variables, but boils down to simple ones: where is there strong, sustainable wind, where is there transmission, or the ability to connect the wind farm to the electric grid, and where is it compatible with the land and the community,” Iberdrola Renewables communications manager Paul Copleman said.

After years of meteorological testing, the wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables began several wind farms in the region, approaching land owners years before construction began.

“I’ve lived here all of my life and I’ve been farming since I was in my twenties,” Buffalo Ridge II Wind Farm Landowner David Iverson said. “I think it's a great opportunity for landowners to expand their income; the farming community is strictly based on crops and livestock and that income fluctuates, the wind towers can be a steady source of income.”

While some communities have welcomed wind farms with open arms, others are actively working to prevent them.

“Of the 77 registered voters, 50 of them did sign a petition against it,” Letcher Township Supervisor Murray VanLaecken said.

One of the main arguments against bringing a wind farm into a community comes from land owners who aren't crazy about the idea of having a wind turbine close to their farm or house.

“For families who own an acreage, there’s no benefit of being by a wind farm…it's just going to cause them to have to look at it and when they go to sell, what is their property worth now with wind towers surrounding it?” VanLaecken said.

The Letcher Township recently passed an ordinance saying any wind tower over 75 feet must be at least a mile from the nearest home.

But in Brookings County, about 30 land owners have already signed on to a newly proposed wind farm project that would add another 35 to 50 wind turbines to the region.

“For me it's been positive,” Iverson said. “I like the looks of them, I like to see them and farm around many of them.”

Iberdrola Renewables says they spend years working with landowners, answering questions and finalizing county, state and federal permits before approving any new project.