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.