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HB 1226 Seeks to Triple Setbacks for Wind Turbines, Despite No Evidence of Harm

Some Republicans want to encourage green energy, but other Republicans continue to do the bidding of the fossil-fuel industry by trying to throw spokes into wind turbines. The latest caveman attack comes from House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, whose House Bill 1226 would triple how far back wind turbines must be set from adjoining property.

Current law sets a default setback of 500 feet or 1.1 times the height of the tower, whichever is greater. HB 1226 would inflate the setback to 1,500 feet or three times the tower height, whichever is greater. (The Prevailing Wind project near Avon will have turbines 586 feet tall.)

Empirical data show that ice throw, one danger attributed to wind turbines, happens mostly under the blades, and the maximum distance that wind turbines may throw ice is 1.5 times the hub height plus rotor diameter. Research has not shown any other human health impacts from wind turbines.

1,500 feet for a wind turbine posing minimal ice risk and zero health risk is absurd compared to counties like Yankton that allow applying manure to open fields within 1,000 feet of drinking water supplies and residences. But leave it to Republican legislators to think renewable energy is a greater threat to South Dakotans than cow poop.


  1. Jason 2019-02-11 07:23

    The people living by them should decide, not some city dweller.

    This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue.

    It’s hilarious seeing Cory try to make it one.

  2. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 08:20

    One issue is sound and/or flicker. Maybe those don’t rise to your threshold of what constitutes a health effect, but not sleeping as well as you personally want to can cause a health effect. So the greater setbacks should ameliorate that particular issue.

    Every so often turbines catch on fire, if not related power electronics that transmit the electricity. Setbacks away from other structures ameliorate that issue.

    But there are indirect health effects. When you make wind energy, you don’t just make wind energy. Today we burn natural gas or coal to account for the intermittency. There is no carbon capture, we do not have energy storage, and we are avoiding nuclear.

    If you displace coal plants with wind and gas, then you improve health comparatively speaking. If you are generating new load on top of what you are already producing, you are emitting more carbon than before. I don’t think Cory is saying that carbon is unrelated to health effects.

  3. mike from iowa 2019-02-11 08:51

    How are wingnuts voting for/against local control? In iowa local control was stripped from the people to prevent them from stopping Cafos being built.. Big AG knew better than the folks surrounded by stench and waste and damaged roads.

    As for wind turbines, even with my poor hearing I can hear turbines turning from the nearest towers depending on velocity and wind direction. The sound is not that bad. The strobe light flicker is another infernal can of worms especially in summertime. Flicker is the worst problem I have noticed, so far, and it only lasts a few minutes as the sun moves across the sky.

  4. Nick Nemec 2019-02-11 09:59

    Here in Hyde County there is a wind farm in the process of being sited. Our county zoning ordinance requires 700ft set back from any road or section line, 1/2 mile (2640ft) from occupied dwellings and state or federal highways and 500ft from unoccupied buildings and other property lines. By the time those setbacks are taken into account it greatly reduces the land available for wind development. A 1500ft setback from property lines would mean that a quarter section (160 acres 1/2 mile on a side) or even a half section (320 acres 1/2 mile on one side and 1 mile on the other side) would have no place for a wind tower to be constructed since the setbacks around the property would overlap. In an entire section (640 acres, 1 mile on a side) held by the same owner there would be less than 120 acres left in the middle eligible for development. This is an attempt to prohibit new wind projects in SD.

  5. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 10:37

    A lot of the best locations for wind energy using current technologies have already been populated by wind turbines. So to get more energy from a given site, you have to build taller to access higher wind velocities and/or more consistent wind velocities.

    And building taller near populations runs into these setback issues that are based on height.

    One option is to build more smaller wind turbines instead to generate the same power and satisfy the setback issues.

    Apparently there are no plans to use the additional land around the wind turbines for energy storage or solar energy.

  6. Kathy Tyler 2019-02-11 13:43

    Just as a note, participating landowners could opt out of the setbacks if they choose. With the bigger towers comes other issues–infrasound, water table degradation with the increased size of the footings, health risks for some. I’m not against them, but non-participators need to be listened to also….And…those contracts. David Gange had an excellent article on that in the Constant Commoner.

  7. jerry 2019-02-11 14:01

    South Dakota is ranked 4th for wind power potential and 14th for solar powered potential. As long as the NOem trumpers are saying nyet to wind power, then we should move to solar as the planet depends upon it. Maybe start in municipal areas where there is an abundance (comparatively speaking) of public roof tops to start with.

    In the hemp growing areas of West River, the solar panels will collect moisture that can be used to water the crop. A twofer no doubt about it.

  8. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 14:49


    How would you propose to balance supply with demand given currently available (or soon-to-be-viable) technology?

    I think there is room for more solar, particularly to act sort of like efficiency and reduce what one pulls from the grid, or just to focus on reducing heating/cooling costs. But pushing excess energy onto the grid can cause problems, and one may find it difficult to attach to the grid if that is the plan.

  9. jerry 2019-02-11 14:55

    The beauty of my solar plan would be night. All kidding aside, there has to be a real drive to conserve energy, not take it for granted. Drive down any street in America and you can see that the housing needs updating. These place have not seen a new window since many of them were built. They lack insulation and they lack air infiltration. There furnaces are so outdated that they are causing health issues.

    Put infrastructure plans in place now and then work on solar collectors for these homes to utilize the power needed in the daytime while finding simple solutions to store energy or use the grid.

  10. leslie 2019-02-11 15:00

    Science denial is one thing Republicans do to get their way, short term. Another is political BEAN BALL. Paul Rosenberg, SALON 2.09.19, writes of this fairly esoteric understanding of what GOP has been doing since Goldwater 1964. SDGOP toddles along behind mimicking this behavior, if not instigating (e.g. EB5…we led the world in fraud). Beanball is Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Merrick Garland, voter suppression in all its evolving forms, and trump family criminality.

  11. leslie 2019-02-11 15:02

    Jason that’s “Democratic”. Your savior Limbaugh is an idiot

  12. Kathy Tyler 2019-02-11 17:41

    After a call from someone much smarter than me concerning my statement on aquifer degradation and wind towers, I did my research and found no scientific data, only personal experiences, to substantiate my claim. Because of that, I think I need to rescind that part of my statement. Thank you.

  13. Pat Baker 2019-02-11 18:05

    In SD, ground mounted solar panels are better for snow removal. My roof mounted panels get covered with snow. I have to depend on the wind and the sun to remove the snow, which does not always happen quickly.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-11 18:27

    Thank you, Kathy, for checking into that claim and backing away on finding a lack of substantiation. I’d be suspicious: the only way I can imagine a wind turbine affecting an aquifer is if it somehow negatively taps into the mysterious energy that makes divining rods work.

    Googling those anecdotes, if there were substance to the claim that punching supports into bedrock releases uranium and arsenic, I imagine we’d have to put a halt to any activity that disrupts bedrock, including mining and fracking.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-11 18:29

    Pat, I can see your rooftop problem… and no one wants to climb the roof in icy cold conditions with a broom. I wonder: could we wire solar panels with some reverse function: flip a switch in the house, and instead of generating electricity, your PV panels draw energy to run defrost wires and melt that snow off themselves?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-11 18:36

    Jason, if the people living next to the turbines should decide, then why are the city dwellers in the Legislature having anything to say about it? All four of the bill’s Senate sponsors live in town. By your logic, they should strike their names from the bill and remain silent on the issue.

  17. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 18:44

    Then what would you use to generate the energy to melt the snow off of the PV panels?

    Speaking of uranium, wind turbines have trace amounts of uranium….but only because everything has a trace amount of uranium. So technically wind turbines store more uranium than the DOE or the nuclear power industry has ever sent to Yucca Mountain.

  18. mike from iowa 2019-02-11 19:01

    Wingnuts control every aspect of Northern Mississippi’s gubmint. How can it not be a wingnut issue? I forgot. HRC had emails. Amirite, Troll?

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-11 19:13

    Jerry’s suggestion of hemp plus solar panels is brilliant, green on green.

  20. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 19:35

    Energy conservation can be part of the solution, but ultimately you need to produce more clean energy to power economies.

    Why? Because conservation does not by itself match supply and demand, and it can ironically lead to more energy use. Heck…I can put another energy efficient refrigerator in the basement and an energy efficient TV in the bedroom. Everybody gets a new cell phone and a new tablet. One will be using less energy than without the efficiency, but still more energy at the end of the day.

    The same goes for carbon. If you have renewables as a larger part of the mix, you will emit less than if you relied only on coal. But you can wind up with more total carbon because of the natural gas that comes along for the ride.

  21. mike from iowa 2019-02-11 19:39

    Jason never provided video evidence of a cafo farming, either.

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  23. jerry 2019-02-11 19:59

    Doc, I disagree about your assumption that “everybody” gets a new phone and new tablet. I don’t. I still have the same cell phone that I don’t use, since forever. I don’t have a tee vee and don’t miss one either, I have better things to do in the bedroom than watch tee vee. I do have a 10 year old refrigerate that was and still is pretty energy efficient and don’t have one downstairs. House is all electric with a heat pump, would love to install a ground application of solar, but am an old stinker so would not want to burden whoever takes the place when I quit being here. Where our problem is I think, is over consumption on everything. I did have a used hybrid Honda, loved it and now have a used crossover because we feel safer in the winter drives. So I am pointing my finger at myself for what I do and am clear about that.

    The Chinese have perfected ways in which to provide solar panels to us all for a fraction of the cost we can manufacture them for. And for their efficiency, we refuse to buy them because we are idiots. We refuse to build electric cars here in the US and allow a manufacturer like Tesla to leave our shores to go to China to build them. Not only here, but in the UK as well. Dyson left the UK for the far east to build electric cars.

    Our grid system is pretty shabby so that to fix it would be to make it regional into county zones or city zones for electric and for high speed internet. Bigger is not always better.

  24. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 20:17

    Be forewarned that production of solar panels can be energy intensive. And in fact, the solar lifecycle emits more carbon per kilowatt-hour than wind, geothermal, and nuclear do combined. Good news…the goal of the GND is to generate more kilowatt-hours from solar!

    And I don’t think all of the costs for mining rare earth elements for wind turbines or making solar cells in China have been captured in the holistic spreadsheet of sustainability.

    We have the capacity to generate a lot more clean energy around the world than we do now, but we would need more nuclear and more renewables to do that. Most of that growth would occur in what we now call the third world. They will demand the refrigeration, air conditioning, and even electric vehicles that we enjoy. If you want to bring the rest of the world out of poverty, the world needs to use clean energy however they see fit.

  25. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 20:23

    Also, one of the reasons that the cost of solar cells is lower in China is because the cost of labor is low, and the environmental regulations are not as strict as in the United States.

    I don’t think anyone running for President in the Democratic Party is in support of such policies here….green jobs that pay a lot less than people are making now and whose production would violate sound environmental policies. Good luck getting elected on that platform.

  26. jerry 2019-02-11 20:48

    Nonsense, we could subsidize the solar industry just like we do ranching and farming. It is what we need not how we get there. How else do you think we will ever get the green deals we are seeking? The American people are behind the green deals that are being presented. Not here in South Dakota, but we are not for anything that doesn’t reek of corruption. We only want the federal government to continue to shell out money to the failed state of NO.

  27. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-11 22:19

    We already subsidize the solar industry. Americans are behind the green deals…as long as somebody else pays for them, or their upfront investment is paid off in 10 years.

    If we end up emitting more total carbon than today (via natural gas and coal without energy storage or carbon capture), and we neither recycle or downcycle materials from solar, then will it really be green?

  28. jerry 2019-02-11 23:03

    Looks like solar subsidizes the American economy “Over 250,000 Americans work in solar – more than double the number in 2012 – at more than 10,000 companies in every U.S. state. In 2017, the solar industry generated a $17 billion investment in the American economy.”

    It seems safe to say then that NOem can stick her 1226 where the sun don’t shine. Bring on the solar to the “Sunshine State” of South Dakota! Forget about the Rushmore State, that is so corrupted yesterday.

  29. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-12 08:38

    “Renewable energy obtained 93% of federal energy fuel subsidies while generating 22% of total U.S. energy in fiscal year 2016, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). ”

    I don’t mind subsidies for the right reason, particularly at a startup initiative that is beneficial, like building solar for schools and using that power for school heating, lighting, computers, and cooling. Or placing a solar farm for something that would use the energy directly instead of sending the energy and the associated economic impact elsewhere.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-12 12:57

    Robert, I’d have a defrost generator hooked up to my indoor bicycle, of course.

  31. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-12 13:36

    Sounds good!

  32. jerry 2019-02-12 14:26

    To keep solar collectors free from ice and snow you can heat tape them on your home or for large commercial collectors
    or you can use an indoor bicycle, at a leisurely pace, to generate the power to run the heat tape…as noted.

    At any rate, solar collectors would work in South Dakota as we are the 14th largest producing state for natural sunlight, how about that? If NOem slices a lemon with wind power, make some lemonade in the shade of the solar collectors. In Europe, the space in between the collectors is used for grazing or for small grain farming.

  33. jerry 2019-02-12 14:34

    But here, the post is about the killing of wind farms in South Dakota, not the subsidies that energy receives. If there was a way for the trumpian Pierre cabal to milk corruption out of wind farms, they would be sprouting like mushrooms under a fresh cow pie.

  34. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-12 20:57

    “The Solar Foundation said in its annual National Solar Jobs Census released Tuesday that the industry employed 242,343 people last year, down about 8,000 jobs, or 3.2 percent, from 2017.”

    They are blaming Trump tariffs and uncertainty over incentives (…a.k.a. subsidies) at the state level.

    Only 26% of the solar workforce are women….Uh-oh.

    Also, methane emissions have risen as natural gas production and consumption have risen.

  35. o 2019-02-13 08:44

    Robert, I think the 93% of subsidies is a bit misleading in that it implies that fossils fuels are somehow not costing us associated “subsidy” costs. If we factor in the cost of a naval presence to ensure shipping lanes and a general military presence to protect foreign oil fields (and associated ongoing costs of previous wars), I think that “subsidy” statistic would substantially change.

    I also think there are indirect “subsidies” of fossil fuel in direct legislation — EPA regulation, MPG efficiency requirements . . .

  36. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-13 10:11

    True, there could be some mis- or mal-accounting of what constitutes or may be interpreted as a subsidy.

    Likewise, the relatively lower upfront costs of renewables generally do not include the future costs of disposal, waste management, maintenance/replacement, nor the current impacts of mining the elements needed by solar, wind, and energy storage technologies.

    Largely those costs have not happened yet, or they are out of sight, out of mind. See China for the environmental impacts of mining those critical elements that we enjoy.

    If we are not willing to do the mining locally, nor recycle the critical elements we need, the same shipping/naval concerns will apply to the transport of critical elements or other manufactured products for renewable energy from China and Africa.

  37. jerry 2019-02-13 10:14

    True that o, true that. “Fossil fuels and nuclear energy have gotten subsidies for decades. Actually, fossil fuels have received government subsidies for 100 or so years. These days, fossil fuel subsidies reportedly total approximately $5 trillion globally each year. Despite tremendous health costs, climate costs, and countless premature deaths caused by pollution, these super rich and overly mature industries receive subsidies that serve no genuinely useful purpose for society. Renewable energy also receives subsidies, but not to the same degree.”

  38. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-13 10:38

    Good news jerry, nuclear energy does not emit pollution!

    Subsidies per kilowatt-hour consumed are what you should keep an eye on, as we will consume more kilowatt-hours of electricity if we are to displace fossil fuels.

    So, what happens if 85% of our total energy (which comes from fossil fuels) disappeared instantly tomorrow? What are the costs of that occurring?

    It would be helpful in the near term if we had a carbon capture technology that worked to displace carbon from current fossil fuels and whatever natural gas we burn to support renewables when they are not available…but we do not. It would be helpful to have an energy storage solution instead, but we do not. Should we work on those and take whatever happens to contribute? You betcha.

  39. jerry 2019-02-13 13:12

    Last I checked, NOem wouldn’t know a wind turbine from nuke lovers blowing wind up her skirt. The only thing we will ever get here is the mining of the poison to kill locals.

  40. Judy daugherty 2019-03-23 07:32

    That article is so biased it’s ridiculous! Just go to the “catchiness wind farm information forum” and educated yourself before you make a public fool of yourself! They have documentation of turbines blades and pieces being thrown ONE MILE! No one should have their home in harms way of a turbine! Minimum setbacks should be over a mile and it should be from property line and not dwelling or it constitutes illegal taking of your land period! Been fighting a wind farm project for 5 years now and you need to educate yourself or you will be taken advantage of by big wind!

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