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Guest Column: Solar in Walworth County Would Benefit All

Residents of Walworth County and their elected county commissioners believe solar panels present a greater menace to their health and welfare than landfills and shooting ranges. Steve Wegman, analyst for South Dakota Renewable Energy, assures Walworth County residents a proposed industrial solar farm won’t pollute their land, water, or skies but will help them and all of South Dakota make money and clean power:

To the Walworth County community,

I know community members have differing opinions on the proposed solar project in Walworth County. As someone who has experience in the renewable energy sector, I’m writing to share some information about solar, this project, and how it would benefit Walworth County.

To begin, this project is a once-in-a-lifetime economic development opportunity for Walworth County. When counting up the numbers for this project, we must include the following: approximately $55 million in tax revenues over the lifetime of the project, a $450,000 building permit that comes to the county as the project starts, and an increase in local commerce during construction.

What would this kind of money do for Walworth County? From infrastructure needs like roads, bridges, schools, and a new jail, to decreasing taxes for everyone in the county, the opportunities are endless. With this project, these opportunities will become reality.

In addition, solar is a safe and efficient method of energy production. All panels are built to ensure no matter leaks out, and these projects include a great deal of vegetation management to block the view, prevent runoff, reintroduce native vegetation, etc. I would not lie to you or spend my career working in renewable energy if it weren’t safe.

On top of the economic benefits that the project would bring to Walworth County, it would directly help South Dakota’s energy production and consumption. This is a real opportunity for Walworth County to be a leader in energy for the state, and by diversifying our energy sources, this project helps the state with energy resilience.

The project will need a permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. The South Dakota Legislature gave the PUC authority to issue permits for energy conversion, AC/DC conversion, wind energy, solar energy and electric transmission facilities. An energy conversion facility is a generation facility, other than a wind or solar generation facility, capable of generating 100 megawatts or more of electricity. In considering applications, the commission’s primary duty is to ensure the location, construction and operation of the facilities will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the citizens. The commission determines these factors based on definitions, standards and references specified in South Dakota Codified Laws and Administrative Rules.

With the once-in-a-lifetime economic and energy production opportunity the proposed project presents, it truly is a win-win for the county. I know Walworth County is full of open-minded folks, and I ask you to get the facts and consider how prosperous the county will become with this project.

NREL Solar map.jpg
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Direct Normal Solar Resource of South Dakota, 2017.04.04, map provided by Wegman.


  1. M 2023-11-30 07:40

    I wish this were printed in the Mobridge Tribune!!!!

  2. sx123 2023-11-30 08:03

    As always, gotta ask, “why here?”
    There is no apparent advantage vs somewhere else and the weather in winter can be very crappy. So, why here? And who’s cutting the weeds?

    Always be leary of those once in a lifetime opportunities. No such thing. Get all money up front and threaten jail time or whatever if the project is abandoned.

  3. sx123 2023-11-30 08:10

    Makes no difference to me if it’s built or not.

  4. Richard Schriever 2023-11-30 08:13

    M – Contact Loretta and ask her to get it in.

  5. Bill Goehring 2023-11-30 08:48

    Steve Wegman, a.k.a. Mr. Science, knows his stuff!

  6. sx123 2023-11-30 09:05

    I wonder if CamWal likes this project? Or MDU?

    Akaska, glenham, mobridge, selby and others could probably all be powered off of this solar project but no sane person would want solar 100% powering their place.

  7. sx123 2023-11-30 10:35

    What is the lifetime of the project? $55mill is quite a bit if the lifetime is 1 year. It’s not so much if the lifetime is 20yrs. A new jail will eat up 20+% of $55mill. Highly doubt people in Akaska want to look at 3200 acres of shiny panels for the rest of their lives just to build a jail. Put the solar panels out in the middle of nowhere at least. The project might benefit some people, but probably won’t benefit everyone in Walworth county. Not to be a Debby Downer, but let’s work with facts not marketing campaigns.

  8. larry kurtz 2023-11-30 11:07

    Indeed. $55 million would take every single Walworth County resident completely off the grid with rooftop solar and guaranteed ten year system where the only maintenance would be topping off the batteries with deionized water once a month.

  9. jerry 2023-11-30 11:34

    I wonder if there is a revenue sharing like the one In Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Those residents there are invested in the project according to the local newspaper there. Lower taxes does not seem to be in the interest of the republicans in Walworth County, wonder why, have we all been hoodwinked by republican blather about that issue?

  10. RS 2023-11-30 13:17

    Jerry brings up an important point about having local investment in any project. The forming of cooperatives has long been a successful business strategy. The ethanol plants and soybean processing plants that have done the best are keeping the profits local and are strongly supported. Compare that to a Riverview dairy, most wind farms, and carbon pipelines, that may be profitable and leave a few crumbs for locals ( easements, construction tax ) as the big money flows away.
    When wind turbines first started in Minnesota and proposed in SD some tried the cooperative method to reap those profits. Unfortunately, but I’m sure intended, the politicians tied their social corporate welfare to the turbines by making it corporate tax deductions for any other business.
    I would bet there are millions of dollars of untapped Walworth County land equity that could serve as collateral for investing in a “can’t miss” solar project. Why set back and wait for the other guy to drop a couple coins in the plate?

  11. Gail Johnson 2023-12-01 02:28

    No matter what man does we impact our environment. There are pros and cons to all sources of energy. Some of the concerns to be addressed in regard to solar energy are: 1.ensuring that the project development company is a solid business entity which will carry the project to completion, will ensure it is hooked up to the power grid, and not abandon it; 2. the project will not be sold to multiple bad faith LLCs who will shirk their responsibility to the landowner and to project cleanup; 3. that the responsibility for clean up at the end of the solar farm life lies with the owner of the solar farm and not the landowner.
    Another aspect of solar farms that needs to be known is what impact it will have on the temperature in the proximity of the solar farm as they collect the sun’s energy. If they do, it seems counter productive to the goal of cooling the earth.
    Revenues from solar farms are attractive to schools and county government but cannot be the driving force behind this project. Sane environmental protection must be the priority. Frankly, I’m not sure where I stand on this issue.

  12. jerry 2023-12-01 09:38

    The whole idea of it being cooler under the solar panels is exactly why the Corp of Engineers is going to build this solar project “In the sunny, drought-ridden Southwest, some policymakers have been advocating adoption of a new climate technology: covering canals with solar panels. Officials hope this will create renewable energy while also preserving water. Now, in Arizona, the first of these projects in the U.S. has broken ground, and others may soon follow.

    The Gila River Indian Community, which is located just south of Phoenix, announced this month that it was launching the first phase of its planned solar-over-canal project, saying it was the first in the country to actually begin construction. To start, 1,000 feet of canal managed by the reservation will be covered with solar panels, a pilot project that tribal officials said will hopefully be expanded across the reservation’s 140-mile irrigation system, a critical resource in a region where water is increasingly scarce. The tribe is using federal funds for the first phase of the $6.7 million project, which is slated for completion in 2025, and will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct it. ”

    I think that in order to get this kind of project going in Walworth County, the county should give the land in question, back to the Standing Rock/Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes for solar development. The tribes all have a real good idea about how to live in harmony with our Mother in these climate changed days ahead.

  13. Sue Drea 2023-12-07 12:26

    Company promoting this Solar Farm project is Doral Renewables LLC. Check out board member Yoshi Cohen, previous Israel Mossad Director, who is on record encouraging Quatar to continue funding Hamas in 2019. Yup. That is definitely a company I would like to build a HUGE project in my county. Not to mention Dan Lederman, previous chair of the corrupt SD GOP is the leading representative for the project.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-12-08 06:40

    So, Sue, if a solar company with no connections to terrorism or covert operations or prominent Jews wants to operate a solar farm in South Dakota, will Walworth County waive the one-mile setback?

  15. jerry 2023-12-08 07:38

    Oh Sue Drea, your Marjorie Taylor Greene’s arse is showing. Jewish Space Lasers and solar collectors, who knew that Q was so fashionable on you.

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