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Tripled Wind Turbine Setbacks Die; Weis Votes Against Aberdeen Jobs

In other good news about bad bills, House Commerce and Energy killed Rep. Lee Qualm’s (R-21/Platte) effort to triple setbacks for wind turbines and hamstring the expansion of wind energy in South Dakota.

House Bill 1226 drew all sorts of testimony, from anecdotalists on the affirmative to business, all levels of government, and the Sierra Club on the negative:


  • Greg Hubener, SDSRRE (Handout(s): No. 3, No. 4)
  • Sherman Fuerniss, self, Delmont
  • Jerome Powers, self, Wagner
  • Kevin Andersh, self, Wagner
  • Julie Kaufman, self, Delmont
  • James Kaufman, self, Delmont
  • Representative Caleb Finck


  • Steve Kolbeck, Xcel Energy, Sioux Falls
  • Brenda Hanten, self, Watertown
  • Gary Jaeger, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners
  • Robert Hill, self, Brookings
  • Justin G. Smith, South Dakota Wind Energy Association
  • Aaron Scheibe,Office of the Governor
  • Brett Koenecke, Avangrid Renewables LLC
  • Brett Koenecke, Geronimo Energy LLC
  • Bill Van Camp, Nextera
  • Drew Duncan, Apex Clean Energy Inc
  • Margo D. Northrup, South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships
  • Roger Solum, self, Watertown
  • Mark Winegar,Sierra Club

The wind industry noted that the status quo allows the counties to determine their setbacks. The combo of big business, jobs, and that nod to local control led to a 10–2 vote to kill HB 1226. The only nays came from anti-wind Republicans Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) and Rep. Kaleb Weis (R-2/Aberdeen). Rep. Weis in particular will likely face questions at the next Aberdeen crackerbarrel (February 23, NSU, 10 a.m.) about why he would vote for a bill that would put at risk the 400 jobs at Aberdeen wind turbine blade manufacturer Molded Fiber Glass.


  1. Nick Nemec 2019-02-14 09:27

    Tripling setbacks is a ham handed attempt to outlaw wind power in South Dakota.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-02-14 09:43

    Yeah, I agree with Nick. I think reasonable setbacks have their place. I always argued for setbacks for landfills and CAFOs, for example, but that was because of odor and water pollution issues. Setbacks should be set based on need. Absent a showing of need for those large setbacks, I think the intent was to cripple wind power.

  3. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-14 11:02

    It’s more BANANA than anything else (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). People want food from the store, but don’t want to see how it is made. Same thing with energy. In this case people can see the wind turbines. That’s different than trying to cripple wind power.

    Wind has a relatively low cost of initial construction, and life-cycle carbon emissions are the same per kilowatt-hour for wind as they are for nuclear. But the end-of-life-cycle costs and the costs of recycling are not being included in the spreadsheet for wind energy.

    I guess that is a question for Donald: Should wind energy address those costs?

  4. jerry 2019-02-14 16:05

    What are the costs of recycling as opposed to recycling expired coal plants or nukes? What is cheaper to recycle the products made in Aberdeen, South Dakota or the byproducts of nuke and coal plants?

  5. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-14 18:33

    That is a good question. We shouldn’t build any more wind until we know the answer :^).

    I think it is more likely that we downcycle the resins and plastics (i.e. use them for something else) than to recycle old wind turbine blades into new ones. We should be recycling the critical elements…that is the real mission to Mars kind of effort.

    A nuclear reactor is the only place where brand new critical elements that renewables need are made every day. What’s the benefit of recycling the critical elements from nuclear fuel or using the process heat from advanced nuclear to do the recycling and downcycling of renewables?

    Those critical elements are also available in coal fly ash. The burning of coal leaves the heavier elements with a higher concentration in the ash. So that is a potential source of critical elements for renewables and energy storage as well.

    Speaking of expenses, it doesn’t make much sense to use less than 5% of the energy available in nuclear fuel and then throw away the rest without recycling anything. Nevertheless, the volume is tiny per person compared with renewables (one lifetime’s worth of nuclear waste via nuclear-generated electricity can fill one can of soda).

  6. Donald Pay 2019-02-14 21:41

    That’s, of course, nonsense, Dr McT, unless you are talking about a humungous can of soda.

    I was inside the Pathfinder Plant and saw the containment vessel and all the concrete and steel they were going to have to ship. Tons and tons of material off that site went to Hanford for storage and disposal. They could not take it across South Dakota because the weight involved was too much for the South Dakota railroad tracks. That was years after they had taken all the really highly radioactive stuff out.

    All that highly contaminated stuff, by the way, sat in that shutdown plant within a few hundred feet of the raging Sioux River during the floods of the late 1960s. Whether that plant flooded during that winter would be an interesting study for a student. It had to have come up pretty close because we were filling sandbags so that NSP could protect the plant.

    We know that the plant shook uncontrollably during what was supposed to the last test run of the reactor. Very few people were aware of how close it came to disaster just to the east of Sioux Falls, but Dr. Thompson, a health physicist at Augustana College, said this incident probably released some amount of radioactive steam. At any rate, the plant was mothballed before it could blow Sioux Falls and Brandon off the map.

    The piping at the plant was cut out of the plant by union workers a few years after the near meltdown. I had a friend who knew those workers, and nearly all of them were dying or had died by the mid-1980s. Whether they died from asbestos or radiological contamination or a combination of both is not known by me, and I don’t know if it can ever be discovered. All of the workers had to sign confidentiality agreements to get full medical coverage by NSP, and none would talk to my friend, the union guy, who was helping us beat the Chem-Nuclear dumpsite at Igloo.

    None of that radioactive stuff could be recycled because there are laws against it for the simply reason that no one wants to cook their eggs in a pan made of metal contaminated with radionuclides. There are laws against that, by the way. After 30 years and a very expensive cleanup project that generated even more tons of radioactive waste, part of the site of the Pathfinder Plant was turned into a natural gas-fired plant.

    You know, Dr. McT, you should try to bullsh*t people about soda cans of radioactive waste as long as I’m alive.

  7. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-14 22:02

    OK, then how much waste per person would a lifetime supply of solar or wind power produce? And don’t forget all the acids used in processing.

    The fact is, nuclear power is more concentrated, so the waste is more concentrated. Period.

  8. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-14 22:12

    With regard to the Pathfinder plant, it was literally a pathfinder. The design was a bit avant garde, and today’s utilities do not have the flexibility any more to try new concepts. Today such a concept would be tried out at one of the national labs first.

    The reactor was designed to use superheated steam instead of the water-cooled concepts in wide use today. This would try to boost the efficiency of the plant to what fossil fuel plants could achieve. And the design had a higher enrichment that is not used in light water reactors today.

    The problems appear to have been more mechanical than nuclear in terms of the engineering. Today much of the reactor core comes in one piece with fewer welds. And oh by the way…..the computing power today is a whole lot better than in 1957 when this was designed.

    So the biggest lesson learned I think was that the current water-based reactors cannot get a boost in efficiency via superheating the steam.

  9. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-14 22:26

    You do make a good point that chemical issues are likely a whole lot more important than radiological…even the radionuclides have a chemistry…and often because something radiological is there, the perceived effects are conflated. If you cannot tell the difference, I guess you choose to blame the radiological item regardless of whatever else is used industrially.

    The isotopes in the steel and what-not become less radioactive over time. Cadmium and arsenic in solar cells stay as cadmium and arsenic. Are there any plans to isolate that waste from the environment after the cells are no longer usable? Nope.

    The radiological issues can be avoided by simply increasing your distance or limiting your time around the material, or not ingesting the items in question. There are these things called robots that are in widespread use today.

  10. Meteor Blades 2019-02-14 23:20

    On Saturday, my 6-year-long feature This Week at Progressive State Blogs will post its Final Edition at Daily Kos. Since excerpts from Dakota Free Press (and its predecessors) have been frequently included at TWPSB, I thought you might like to look in then one last time. 1 pm PST. Cheers. Keep up the great work. I’m still reading you.

  11. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-15 08:35

    “The Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) board voted to shut down a Kentucky coal-fired power plant Thursday, days after President Trump publicly called on them to keep it open.”

    TVA’s expected energy mix by 2028? Nuclear 43%, Gas 24%, Coal 17%, Hydro 10%, Wind/solar 5%, Energy Efficiency 1%.

    Total CO2 emissions dropr from 108 million tons in 2007 to 46 million tons in 2028.

  12. mike from iowa 2019-02-15 15:52

    6-1 vote to shutdown by board dominated by Drumpf picks. That has got to hornswoggle Drumpf who only handpicks the best and these bozos betrayed him.

  13. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-15 16:09

    It is a 49-year old coal plant that TVA is choosing to shut down.

    If you want to replace it with a new coal plant that is more efficient, includes carbon capture, and performs some combined heat and power functions, then maybe that is worth discussing. But that would also be expensive to do even if the carbon capture were feasible.

  14. Donald Pay 2019-02-15 21:26

    My understanding is TVA is under a court order to shut down some of these inefficient and risky plants. One of their coal ash pits at one plant failed and killed people some years ago.

    President Dumb piped up to pretend he was supporting the coal mines. He likely didn’t have a clue about the court order. The guy that voted to not shut down was, maybe still is, a coal mine CEO. The board wasn’t going to violate a court order and risk being hauled to prison by a pissed off judge.

  15. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-16 13:35

    Every 2-3 years a reactor is refueled. The typical nuclear power plant removes about 180 kg of fissile plutonium and 220 kg of U-235 that is mixed up with everything else in the waste. If we captured just these two items and converted them into heat and energy, it would displace about a million tons of coal.

    That’s the good news. The bad news is that we will have consumed 691 million tons of coal in 2018, 93% of that for electricity. That is down from its peak around 2008-2009.

    From looking around a little, something around 20% gets converted into a fly ash for disposal (100-130 million tons of coal fly ash per year).

    The International Renewable Energy Agency predicts that there will be 78 million metric tons of total solar panel waste by 2050 (an estimate made with 2016 energy projections….so it could be a lot more).

    For its part, coal recycles about half of the fly ash, but that is really downcycling (they are not collecting carbon and re-burning it). But there still are 1-2 billion tons of coal fly ash being stored.

    We are not recycling or downcycling yet to any suitable degree with renewables. If renewables are green, and the new deal is green, shouldn’t renewables do this better than coal?

  16. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-16 13:45

    “We have seen that solar panels can be recycled. However, a more important question might be:

    Does the solar industry have the resources, tools, recycling plants, and market to recycle large quantities of solar panels?

    The short answer for that is no.”

    All I am asking is that there be a plan.

  17. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-16 19:07

    There is a bill moving through the North Dakota Legislature regarding nuclear waste regulations (SB 2037). In essence it is an attempt to set up a regulatory response if the federal government were to have actual interest in siting a waste repository in North Dakota.

    It looks to be in response to the past borehole efforts in North Dakota. A lot of it appears to run through the state geologist. It passed the ND Senate 42-3.

    There appears to be less interest in borehole exploration and more in using oil/gas techniques to place nuclear waste canisters in deep isolation which facilitate retrieval when necessary (such as for reprocessing, removal to a different site, or when a community withdraws consent). That technology has recently passed a demonstration for canisters of the same weight (but no radioactivity).

  18. jerry 2019-02-16 19:16

    I say good for North Dakota. Just don’t put it on or near current Reservation land. Put that in John Hoeven’s back yard, right close to the North Dakota state house. Nevada will be glad to hear the news!

  19. Robert McTaggart 2019-02-16 19:42

    Jerry….I think this is more just-in-case. The Trump administration has been more interested in Yucca Mountain if not deregulating some things at the federal level…so this is a state response.

    Previous borehole opponents in ND have focused upon how much control counties have in zoning issues in this regard and/or how much influence the state geologist may have.

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