Conservatives celebrate Big Oil projects and ridicule environmentalists who argue that we should leave oil in the ground. Yet conservative former legislator, now Bon Homme County Commission candidate, Ed Van Gerpen wants to leave South Dakota’s most abundant potential energy resource untapped. At a public meeting hosted Wednesday in Avon by the Public Utilities Commission and attended by around 300 people, Van Gerpen said he doesn’t want the big 100-turbine, 201-megawatt Prevailing Winds power project in his backyard:
Former state legislator Ed Van Gerpen of Avon strongly opposes the wind project, alluding to the size of the operation and its investors.
“I’m starting to feel like David and Goliath,” he said.
Van Gerpen held up his Avon Pirate cap, noting the school and mascot represent the true spirit of the community. “What angers me is (Prevailing Winds investors) want to change our community to the wind capital of South Dakota,” he said.
Van Gerpen disputed the figures on the amount of revenue the Avon school district would see from the wind farm.
He also warned that area residents stand to hold the bag when it comes to expenses. “As more wind power comes on line, the additional costs will be passed on to the consumers,” he warned [Randy Dockendorf, “Airing Opinions,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2016.08.25].
The Prevailing Winds project could supply enough electricity to power ten rural electric cooperatives… on windy days. Those wind turbines leave area residents holding a smaller bag of environmental hazards than neighbors of the giant CAFOs trying to expand in Bon Homme County and the Keystone Pipeline leaking in neighboring Hutchinson County.
Reporter Bob Mercer allows himself a literary detour from the energy and environmental issues at stake and observes the community dynamics on display at Wednesday’s meeting:
What stood out as well was the gym. The wooden parquet floor shined a natural gold. Names of local businesses and other supporters were painted along the school-red boundary to the court. On an end wall a display held the names of the sponsors of the floor-restoration project from about 20 years ago. Overhead hung two rows of banners, celebrating championships and strong finishes in state tournaments, including the South Dakota titles won in girls volleyball and nine-man football….
One of the concerns in the crowd on Wednesday night was that the community could be permanently divided over a wind project within sight north of town. This visitor wondered whether the gym would feel the same in the future, as a place of pride in a community’s young people, to the hundreds of people who went to the PUC meeting. The floor will still be there. The banners will still be there. The test ahead is whether the communal pride can still be there, whether the possibility of 100 white wind towers will or won’t overwhelm the bond, the tradition, of the red and gold [Bob Mercer, “The Banners in the Avon Gym,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2016.08.26].
Apparently not dividing the community is Missouri River Energy Services’ new one-megawatt solar energy project at the Pierre airport.
The project is visible from North Airport Road, near the rural fire station. There will be 11 rows of solar panels, each 500 feet long, and another two shorter rows of 400 feet.
The whole project will generate 1 megawatt of power, or just about 3 percent of Pierre’s needs, said Leon Schochenmaier, city administrator [Lee Zion, “Construction Underway for Solar Project at Airport,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2016.08.25].
The MRES Pierre project will be the largest solar installation in South Dakota. Its power output will equal the annual power consumption of 200 homes.
If we had oil lying underground in Avon or Pierre, we’d be erecting derricks and laying pipeline as fast as we could. We have wind and sun all around us. Pierre isn’t hesitating to tap that solar power; why would Avon hesitate to tap its own abundant energy resources?