Driving across South Dakota, one can't help but be impressed by the rolling hills of the prairie. One also can't help but notice something else: our state is windy! South Dakota is one of the windiest states in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy. Sadly, like in so many other areas, we rank near the bottom in terms of our utilization of wind energy.
Investing in wind energy makes sense for South Dakota.
Investing in wind energy decreases our dependence on non-sustainable forms of energy like coal. Whether we address energy policy now or in 50 years, we'll have to do it eventually -- we simply can't burn coal forever. In a state whose primary business is agriculture, we can't afford to damage our environment. It's not just nice to look at, it is our livelihood.
Wind energy doesn't just mean smarter policy; it translates into real jobs for South Dakota families. Energy groups estimate that our state could gain as many as 5,000 new jobs by investing in real wind infrastructure in South Dakota. That helps keep people in the state and attract new residents here, which has real economic benefits for South Dakota. We can't afford not to take this step forward.
In February 2008, the legislature passed HB 1123 establishing an objective that 10% of all retail electricity sales in the state be obtained from renewable and recycled energy by 2015. In March 2009, this policy was modified by also allowing "conserved energy" to meet the objective. This simply isn't good enough. Taking advantage of our wind potential by harnessing and exporting wind energy can help alleviate the budget crisis in Pierre, allowing the legislature to stop balancing the budget on the backs of families that simply can't afford it.