SD group studies plan to sell wind power to Minn.

AP News
Posted: Dec 02, 2009 9:59 AM

The newly formed South Dakota Wind Energy Association has commissioned a study into the feasibility of developing projects that would sell wind-generated electricity to Minnesota, association officials said.

Board President Jeff Nelson said Tuesday the study will evaluate the benefits and challenges of developing 1,000 megawatts of wind power in eastern South Dakota. That electricity could be sold to Minnesota utilities so they could meet that state's standards for renewable energy, he said.

The project would be a test of South Dakota's ability to develop more wind farms that could sell power to distant markets, Nelson said at the association's first membership meeting.

South Dakota is considered to have the fourth best wind potential among the states, but it lacks access to enough transmission lines to get wind energy to markets in large cities.

The Wind Energy Association was formed earlier this year by a number of electrical utilities and farm groups, including the South Dakota Farm Bureau and the South Dakota Farmers Union. Nelson is general manager of East River Electric Power Cooperative, based in Madison.

Peak demand for all of South Dakota is just 3,000 megawatts an hour, Nelson said. The state has wind farms that generate about 300 megawatts, and it will be producing about 700 megawatts by 2011, he said. One megawatt of wind power will supply electricity to 250-300 average homes.

Because wind power can reasonably provide about 20 percent of a state's electrical power, any substantial increase in wind generation would require that South Dakota export wind power to other states, Nelson said.

Steve Wegner, the association's executive director, said rural areas in South Dakota and other Great Plains states have great potential for generating wind _ and that wind farms can help boost those rural communities, which have been losing population in recent decades.

Larry Flowers of the National Wind Technology Center, which operates under the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said South Dakota can play a big role in the nation's drive to increase the amount of power generated by wind but is hampered by the lack of transmission lines.

About 2 percent of the nation's power now comes from wind, but the U.S. has set a goal to have 20 percent of its electricity come from wind by 2030, Flowers said. Utilities are still figuring out how to integrate wind energy into their systems, he said. Wind is not reliable, but utilities can predict when weather conditions will make it available, he said.

"Wind is a valuable resource that is controlled by a higher power than utilities. That makes them very nervous," Flowers joked.

However, wind does not depend on fossil fuel and does not emit greenhouse gases, he said. Wind power also uses no water, which Flowers said gives it a big advantage over coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

South Dakota could reasonably develop enough wind projects to generate 8,000 megawatts of electricity, which would have a $9 billion economic impact and create about 4,000 long-term jobs, he said.