OPINION: Wind farm is pro-SDFalsehoods spread about Oak Tree project.
By: Michael Makens, Guest columnist
Earlier this month, an opinion piece written by Bob Mercer appeared in several South Dakota newspapers. He misled readers by claiming many falsehoods as fact. It is important that the public knows the truth about Oak Tree Energy’s proposed wind project and its beneficial impact.
Oak Tree Energy LLC is a small business created by a family who has farmed in Clark County since 1901. The vision of the family business is to create a community wind farm that will benefit local landowners, residents of Clark County, local investors, the local utility and its ratepayers.
The Clark Wind Farm has gained strong support from local residents and local leaders. Numerous part-time and full-time employment positions will be created by the wind project, which will also generate a steady yearly flow of tax income appropriated to the local government. Along with its positive economic impact, the Clark Wind Farm will add great environmental benefit with a clean, renewable energy resource that is fuel free and emission free.
The Clark Wind Farm is ripe and ready to build. The only hurdle remaining is to contract a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in order to sell the energy produced by the plant. Oak Tree Energy has faced resistance from NorthWestern Energy (NWE), the local utility. After unsuccessful negotiations of a PPA, Oak Tree Energy brought the matter to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (SDPUC) in an effort to arrive at a fair, wholesale electricity price, based on federal PURPA law to apply the utility’s avoided cost as the rate. This proceeding is ongoing.
The first three words of the SDPUC are South Dakota and Public. This is an opportunity for NorthWestern and the SDPUC to take a supportive stance for the entire state of South Dakota and its public citizens by supporting small local community wind energy development in a financially viable manner so as to create a win-win benefit to all parties involved.
The Clark Wind Farm presents an opportunity to support independent renewable energy production on a community-size scale. It is pro-South Dakota in every aspect. It is a reliable South Dakota resource developed by South Dakotans, built by South Dakotans, financed and invested in by South Dakotans, and this project will benefit the environment of South Dakota, the economy of South Dakota, the citizens of South Dakota, and a utility company of South Dakota and its South Dakota ratepayers.
A topic worth investigating is NorthWestern’s conflicting duplicity in its stance toward wind energy. Why does NorthWestern promote its recent dealings with British Petroleum’s Titan I wind project claiming benefit to its ratepayers, while it discourages the community wind farm of Oak Tree Energy? Why did NorthWestern encourage the Montana Public Service Commission to support its current acquisition of the Spion Kop wind farm in Montana, while it discourages the South Dakota PUC in the matter of the Clark Wind Farm? Now that, Mr. Mercer, is a story worth telling.
Michael Makens is vice president of Oak Tree Energy, which is based in Clark.