Best known for its mountain carvings of presidential faces, South Dakota is earning a new reputation as one of America's wind energy leaders. The prairie state is already home to nearly 500 turbines that collectively generate 784 megawatts of power, and now it's looking to double that capacity. A group of over 80 landowners are joining forces to build a one-gigawatt wind farm, to be spread over thousands of acres of farmland.
“Our board has approved the purchase of [a meteorlogical] tower to kick off the research collection phase,” said Paul Shubeck, Dakota Power Community Wind board chairman. “We need to collect two to three years of data before construction can begin.”
The nearly 20,000 acres of farmland under contract for the project can support a 300-megawatt wind farm, which would be the largest wind farm in the state, adding nearly 50 percent to current production levels. Company officials are looking to sign more landowners on to the project, but it will go ahead with or without more land.
If built as envisioned, the sprawling wind farm would produce more than three times as much electricity as the natural gas–burning Deer Creek Station, which became the state’s most powerful fossil-fuel power plant when it began operating in 2012.
The potential economic impact of the project is nothing to slouch at. It is estimated that a 1,000-megawatt farm could generate nameplate and production taxes exceeding $8 million a year, and that's not including sales and use taxes. It's also expected to generate over 1,000 construction jobs and more than 70 permanent, on-site jobs.
Photo via Inhabitat