Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson said some nutbar stuff on election night. He returned to making mostly sensible policy statements last week when he joined a unanimous PUC in approving the 128-megawatt Wild Springs Solar Project just south of New Underwood:
It’s extremely interesting and very exciting to see this type of renewable energy project being developed in South Dakota…. Ten to 20 years ago, solar energy wasn’t considered a viable option for our state because we didn’t have the right climate for it. It’s exciting to see that technology has grown and investors are willing to support a renewable energy that has very few challenges from the standpoint of aesthetics or noise or anything of that nature [Commissioner Gary Hanson, PUC press release, 2020.11.24].
Both Hanson and Commissioner Kristie Fiegen seem to be testing out lines to pit solar against wind:
This is South Dakota’s biggest solar project to date. We at the PUC have had a lot of experience with wind development in the last few years, but in certain regards, solar is different [Commissioner Kristie Fiegen, PUC press release, 2020.11.24].
We should be careful about getting into any debate about whether wind power is better than solar power, because some wise guy will jump in to remind us that wind power technically is solar power (sunshine, temperature differences, air moves!). Besides, wind and solar have more in common than they do in distinction—both replace coal and other dirtier energy sources, so both are net positives for the planet. Thanks to massive price drops over the last ten years—90% for solar, 70% for wind—both offer us the chance to spend less money on energy. The differences we may identify between wind and solar—wind turbines crank out more energy per unit, solar panels are less visible and make less noise…—seem small compared to the great benefits of carbon and cash savings.
Wild Springs Solar is the biggest solar project yet in South Dakota, beating the 110-megawatt Lookout Solar Project that the PUC approved in February. (Lookout’s bounced check finally cleared in July.) Wild Springs will take two years to build and connect.