There is no guarantee that all of the approved or docketed projects are going to be built, as some projects will change hands or suffer from capital deficits, however people who know the wind industry believe most South Dakota projects are possible to move forward. Additionally, in question is whether energy firms can use South Dakota contractors and suppliers to support the construction and maintenance of the wind farms.
However, the rapid growth in wind energy production is welcome news for the eight South Dakota organizations that offer equipment, support, and maintenance services to wind energy developers and operators, said Mike Sherman, president of Renew Energy Maintenance in Sioux Falls.
“It undoubtedly benefits our company and creates opportunities for the US to add employees,” Sherman said.
Renew aids in the construction of wind energy projects, however, mostly on a smaller scale than the size of the wind farms coming to South Dakota, Sherman presented. however when the Mount Rushmore State comes are up and running, Renew might even see a monetary and employment boost by providing maintenance services.
“We don’t do a lot of new construction work, but we travel all over North America doing maintenance,” Sherman said. “For us, it’s nice to finally be able to work in our home state.”
Renew is commonly referred to as on to assist wind energy companies to perform quality control efforts and decrease continuing prices of operation, Sherman said.
Renew, which currently has about 260 workers, operates from offices on East River Ridge Place just northeast of the intersection of twenty-sixth Street and interstate 229 in Sioux Falls.
Even with the rush of fresh wind projects, finding new workers could also be a challenge. Like some technology-based firms in South Dakota, Renew includes a hard time recruiting qualified employees. Through Sherman, the company features a representative on the advisory board at both Mitchell and Lake area technical institutes in its efforts to cultivate its workforce.
“With the economy being good right now, if we might find the right people, we could hire another thirty to forty workers today,” he said.
Sherman said the projects ought to also offer a huge boost to rural counties across the state.
“It’s good news and a real big boost to local economies,” Sherman said. “It creates jobs in rural areas and significant tax benefits that come to the counties through construction and operations.”
Even though the projects will generate large property taxes for many rural counties in South Dakota, not all local officials are excited about the wind farms.
Deuel County Commission Chair Steve Rhody said he's reserving judgment on the potential long-term outcomes of the Deuel Harvest North Wind Farm, which has been approved to create up to 112 turbines within the Eastern side of the county by 2020.
Through filings with the state by developer Invenergy, the project can cost $400 million to build, produce 400 temporary and 15 permanent jobs, generate $87 million in payments to landowners and lead to $40 million in tax payments to state and local governments over the 30-year life of the project. The company predicts it'll pay $23 million in wages and benefits to native workers during that time.
Deuel Harvest is one of 2 new wind energy projects which will be partially or fully sited within Deuel County within the coming years.
Rhody said that outside of those who will receive lease payments, the project wasn't supported by a lot of residents of the county, as well as some who testified against it during public hearings.
“I know that we'll make more money,” Rhody said. “But it’s not going to be all good. They’re going to wreck some roads and it’s going to be busy till it gets completely built.”
Rhody said he understands that the wind projects are seen as a profit to the state and that state economic officials are excited about the potential windfalls.
Rhody said: “They’ve been going wild over it, however, they aren’t living underneath them,”. “Lots of people who are opposed to them, and I’m kind of reserving judgment,” he added. “Time will tell how it turns out.”
This story was made by South Dakota News Watch, a nonprofit that covers statewide stories including agriculture, education, public safety, and politics.