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LETTER: Wind power needs solid infrastructure

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Renewable energy showed fantastic growth in 2012, accounting for 55 percent of new electricity generating capacity built last year. The energy produced is keeping pace with the price of fossil fuels, and shows potential to become even cheaper in the future. The Great Plains has a bright future in renewable energy sources like wind, especially in rural areas where the wind blows and space is abundant.

Energy development here provides a strong return to local communities. Wind farms feed local economies and generate local tax revenue. Overall, renewable development means more money for valuable local services like schools, fire and rescue, and police; while also stimulating local business that provides materials for construction and services to workers constructing and maintaining wind turbines.

One critical roadblock remains, however ... the lack of transmission infrastructure. Like wind, transmission construction also provides jobs and revenue to many rural communities. But areas that have great wind potential often lack a way to get power from where the wind blows to where it's needed most. Without available transmission, projects will not have a clear path for getting their energy to market.

If you're interested in transmission, one state project to check out is the Big Stone South to Brookings line. This line would run from near Big Stone to a substation near Brookings; expanding renewable energy and small-town economic opportunities along the way. For more information about this project and others, visit the Center for Rural Affairs' clean energy transmission database at (http://www.cf ra.org/clean-energy-transmission-map/line/big-stone-brookings).

Lucas Nelson writes on behalf of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb.

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