Thune recognized for championing wind power

Strategic Elements
Farm Forum

PIERRE, S.D. — The American Wind Energy Association recognized U.S. Sen. John Thune on Aug. 13 for his support of American wind power, which represents nearly a quarter of South Dakota’s electricity production and billions of dollars in investments in the state’s economy. AWEA and its members presented the award and are proud that South Dakota has proclaimed this past week American Wind Week.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, joined several South Dakota leaders to present the award and thank Senator Thune for his record of support for the wind industry.

“On behalf of AWEA’s over 1,000 members in the industry, it’s a real honor, senator, for us to present to you a 2020 Wind Champion award,” said Kiernan. “You are one of our most impactful, most effective champions, and we want to thank you for that and recognize that leadership.”

Most recently, Thune helped support an effort with the Department of Treasury to grant safe-harbor flexibility for wind projects as the industry works to combat the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crucial change will guarantee that wind projects experiencing delays as a result of COVID-19 can still access key tax credits and ensure the realization of billions of dollars of investment, thousands of jobs, and a cleaner and more prosperous future.

“We’re very blessed to live in a state that recognizes the value of resources like wind energy,” said Thune. “It really is the right thing to do for the economy and for the future.”

In a news release, AWEA member companies based in South Dakota and supporters of wind energy in the state lauded the senator for his work.

“Construction is a big economic boost for counties where projects are being installed,” shared Mike Sherman, president of Renew Energy Maintenance. “We hire out of the local technical schools here in South Dakota, and we buy the majority of our tools locally in South Dakota. The more turbines installed in South Dakota, the more opportunity we have to grow and are able to pump money back into our local economies. We appreciate everything you’ve done and are continuing to do, senator.”

Many communities and counties in South Dakota are benefiting from wind energy.

“It’s huge — what wind has brought into the county,” Joan Sacrison, executive director of Deuel Area Development said. “As rural as South Dakota is, it’s imperative that we have these boosts because some of us are hanging by a thread. Every penny is counted.”

Last year, wind farms in South Dakota generated $9 million in tax revenue for state and local governments and provided $9.8 million in land lease payments, serving as a cash crop for farmers.

“For Campbell County, we have well over $350,000 in tax revenue, and for a rural county like ours that is a big deal,” said Andrew Van Kuren, economic development coordinator for the Campbell County Economic Development Corp. “The good-paying jobs that have been brought in from GE and ConEd mean a lot to us.”

South Dakota had the largest percentage increase in wind energy growth across the country in 2019, increasing its installed capacity by over 50 percent.

“Wind energy has offered our members many opportunities to diversify the income they receive from their land as well as help generate renewable energy for their operations and the entire state,” said Krystil Smit, executive director of South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation. “We’ve seen that become a great tool for producers who have the opportunities to take part in that. But we know none of that would be possible without Sen. Thune’s influential leadership.”

The wind industry now supports 3,000 jobs and has invested more than $3 billion in capital financing in the state, providing unparalleled opportunities for workforce expansion and economic success in South Dakota.

“The wind energy industry has allowed this state to develop a valuable energy resource that’s going to spur economic growth across the state for years to come,” said Gary Fish, president of Parkview Energy Partners and president of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association. “These are permanent projects; these are great jobs. This wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of Sen. Thune.”

South Dakota’s recent gains in wind energy have kept the state near the top for its share of electricity generated by wind, ranking fifth in the U.S. at just about 24 percent.

“We’ve figured out a way to harness something that brings real tangible benefits to South Dakota,” said Thune. “I think it’s a great success story. I couldn’t be prouder of the work that’s been done in our state and is being done. I hope we continue to lead the way. We’re going to continue to fight the good fight. I am excited about what’s been done, but I’m also excited about what the future holds.”

Thune concluded, “I always say that, in Washington, D.C., it’s easy when you have a good story to tell, and we have a great story to tell when it comes to wind energy.”