The Planted Row: Developers, land owners should work together
When I moved to South Dakota in 2009, I felt like I had arrived in an ocean of wind. The multiple days of strong, sustained winds despite clear blue skies seemed foreign to me. I listened to gust after gust crash into my house like waves onto the shore, and I began to feel the power of the prairie landscape.
Later that winter, I walked my son to school when it was 7 below. I wasn’t really worried about the cold. In Alaska, I had been out in much colder conditions, and we only live a block away from his school. What I didn’t count on was the wind chill. There was a strong north wind that day, and every exposed bit of skin felt like it was being stabbed with icy daggers. I had never felt the cold as something physically painful before. When I complained to my meteorologist wife, she pointed out a reality of the prairie.
She said, “There’s nothing between you and the North Pole but a fence.”
When I lived in Alaska, I was in awe of the power of the mountains, but I have come to realize that vast stretches of open landscape can generate a power all their own, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
It can, however, be used.
I have come to accept the wind here on the Northern Plains, but it has never stopped being something strange to me, a constant reminder that I am not from here. However, I wonder if people who spend their whole lives here are aware that the steady winds aren’t found in all parts of the country. The potential for wind energy here is something that we shouldn’t take for granted.
Fossil fuels are a finite resource. At some point they are going to run out. Also, we know that burning them to create energy isn’t exactly the healthiest thing we can do for the planet. Wind energy offers a solution that doesn’t pollute the air.
South Dakota counties like Walworth and Deuel are trying to determine the appropriate level of setback ordinances for wind farms. It’s good that local governments can create guidelines to prevent one party from destroying another person’s ability to enjoy their property. However, it’s possible to create setback ordinances so large that they effectively kill wind development in a county. That would be a shame not only for rural counties that could use the tax revenue but also the country, which needs more access to renewable resources, not less, and the entire world, which needs us to cut back on air pollution.
Wind farms aren’t perfect solutions. They pose a risk to birds, they can be noisy, they are expensive, and there have been claims of adverse health effects by some people who live near them. However, wind power offers a clean source of energy that we cannot afford to pass up. It needs to be part of our country’s energy independence solution, and the Northern Plains has a landscape uniquely suited to provide wind energy.
No one wants a developer to move into their backyard and alter the landscape, but if wind energy isn’t developed here, where should it be?
I hope landowners and developers are able to work together to find a solution that works for everyone.
On next Tuesday, March 14, we will publish our annual Spring Edition. This is one of two special editions we print each year. You should note that Alan Guebert’s column will not appear on the first and second pages of the paper as it usually does, but his column will be back in that spot in the normal Friday edition on March 17.