DAUGAARD: Wind power contributing to South Dakota's economy
As most people in rural South Dakota can tell you, the wind is almost always blowing. Living on the prairie, windy days are inevitable. It just comes with the territory — which is why it only makes sense for us to develop this fast resource and put it to good use.
Over the past decade South Dakota has been doing just that. Wind power has contributed more than $2 billion in capital investment to our state for the construction and maintenance of the 14 wind projects now in operation. These projects, along with the South Dakota businesses that supply goods and services to the wind industry, support nearly 2,000 good-paying jobs in our state. Better yet, there are numerous wind power projects being planned across our state and, if built, these wind farms will attract billions of dollars of new private investment, millions of dollars of new revenue for farmers and rural communities, and thousands of new jobs.
Today, I am proud to say that South Dakota is one of only two states where wind power provides over 30 percent of in-state power generation. That's power that the whole region can count on. In fact, the regional operator of our energy system has noted they can reliably meet over 50 percent of the current demand for our 13-state region with wind power alone, and that's not even the limit.
The growth in wind power in our state and region did not happen overnight or without careful planning and advances in technology. Wind works well with South Dakota's other major power resources such as hydroelectric, coal-fired, and natural gas power plants, adding to our fuel diversity and reducing our reliance on imports. That diversity helps protect our businesses and homeowners from price and supply volatility, as well as changing national and global policies.
Beyond helping keep electricity prices stable, wind power can also benefit the families and communities who host the projects on their land. Wind farms now pay approximately $5 million each year in lease payments, creating a new, drought-resistant revenue stream that can help family farmers and ranchers expand their operations or withstand market fluctuations in crop prices.
We have seen success with wind power development to date, and the future remains bright with prospects for more economic opportunity for South Dakotans. South Dakota's wide open spaces and high quality wind resource can potentially provide affordable and reliable electricity to those living beyond our borders. By continuing to expand and modernize our electricity grid, we can deliver more of South Dakota's wind resource to high demand areas, just as we deliver other commodities like soybeans and corn to other parts of the nation.
Renewable power is proving its worth throughout the Great Plains, and South Dakota is committed to keeping our state open for more wind development. The renewable energy sector is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and renewable energy will continue to play a crucial role in creating new jobs and growing our state's economy. As wind power has grown to be nearly a third of our energy production, our grid is as reliable as ever. With this experience in mind, I will continue to support the expansion of renewable energy in South Dakota. I hope you will too.