One of South Dakota’s most populated counties is deciding the future of wind power within its borders, and the outcome could provide direction for the future of wind generation in the entire state.
Voters in Lincoln County, which includes the south side of Sioux Falls, will vote July 18 on whether to keep the stricter setback rules for wind projects county commissioners adopted earlier this year.
Sara Bovill and her husband John Bovill make the fourth generation on his family’s farm, raising corn, soybeans and cattle just north of Beresford. They’ve followed the wind issue since early on in the process.
Sara Bovill is president of the Lincoln County Farm Bureau and co-chairwoman of a new campaign, Farmers and Friends for Wind, launched last month to encourage county voters to reject the new setback restrictions. The group includes several agriculture related organizations: South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farmers Union and South Dakota Farm Bureau, along with Dakota Power Community Wind, the company looking to build 150 towers in Lincoln County.
Bovill hopes the company can build a few towers on their land. Revenue from the towers would help the farm when crop prices are low, as they are now. It makes sense to give up an acre of farm ground for a tower that brings in $10,000 per year, she said.
“There’s no legal crop we can grow to make that much money off of one acre,” she said. They could also lower their rent prices by off-setting costs with turbine payments.
Those who support stricter setbacks say the project isn’t right for such a populated area.
“We make our homes and our lives here,” said Winnie Peterson, executive director of We-Care SD, which stands for Wind Energy Concerns About the Rural Environment. The group has pushed for larger setbacks and supports the commission’s new rules that are subject to the July vote.
The group isn’t against renewable energy, Peterson said, but she feels today’s wind technology is not efficient enough to outweigh the costs. Some costs, she feels, are borne by the people who live near the towers. She worries the project will drive property values down and cause health problems.
The setbacks passed by the county commission are an improvement over current rules, Peterson said. Each tower would have to be built at least 1,500 feet from any home under the current ordinance. If voters approve the new rules commissioners passed, towers would need to be set back at least 2,640 feet. To build a tower closer than that, each landowner within the setback could sign a waiver.
Those campaigning against the ordinance would like fewer restrictions. South Dakota hasn’t been as aggressive as neighboring states such as Iowa when it comes to recruiting wind projects, said Brian Minish, a co-chairman on the Farmers and Friends for Wind committee and board member with Dakota Power Community Wind. A vote against the Lincoln County restrictions would send a message that South Dakota is open for business when it comes to wind, he said, but new rules would stifle growth.
“This ordinance is a poison pill to kill the development of wind farms in Lincoln County,” Minish said.
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