South Dakota is fifth in the U.S. for wind energy potential. That’s enough potential to allow residents to meet their energy needs 300 times over. In fact, the state has already started down the path to realizing this possibility by producing more than 26 percent of its energy from wind.
As more wind energy projects are established in South Dakota, it’s important that developers and local officials work to identify and address community concerns around new projects. One piece to consider is crafting zoning standards that focus on citizens’ concerns while allowing for development of renewable wind energy.
On July 18, Lincoln County residents will have an opportunity to vote on new setback distances for wind energy in their county. These new rules would require that wind turbines be built at least 2,640 feet from a home, a significant increase from the current ordinance’s requirement of 1,500 feet.
When determining setback distance, the goal should be to provide reasonable space between wind turbines and homes or other areas like roads. Setback requirements are important because they can often limit the available locations for turbines in an area, decrease the size and benefits of a project, or make building a project difficult. To capture their wind energy potential, South Dakotans must aspire to have balanced zoning standards. These standards should not aim to stop or eliminate development, but provide guidance to new projects.
South Dakota can continue leading the way on wind energy development if local communities strike this balance between addressing community concerns and capturing the benefits of local wind projects.