Senator John ThuneDuring the past year we have seen the effect that high energy costs can have on our economy and our daily lives. While gas prices have retreated significantly from their record highs this summer, the need to utilize alternative sources of energy is still great, both for fueling our vehicles and generating electricity. I believe that South Dakota has the opportunity to not only be a leader in producing renewable fuels for our cars and trucks, but in generating clean electricity to run our homes and businesses.
For many years, South Dakotans have harnessed the power of the Missouri River as a means to generate electricity. In fact, more than half of all electricity generated in South Dakota stems from hydroelectric sources. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to hydroelectric power.
As we all know too well, South Dakota experiences periodic droughts, which not only limit our state's agriculture production, but cause decreased precipitation and runoff. In fact, over the last few years total energy output from the six main plants along the Missouri has been only half of what it should be. Unfortunately for customers, less power generated along the Missouri equates to higher utility rates because power must be purchased from other utilities in the region.
As renewable fuels help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I believe that wind power has the ability to supplement hydroelectric generation in South Dakota. Wind energy generation and transmission can be a sound investment for those times when water flow is low and gaps in hydroelectric generation fails to meet the needs of consumers.
I have been working with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to study the potential steps necessary to integrate hydroelectric and wind generation in South Dakota, patterned on successful systems in other areas of the country. I am pleased to announce that WAPA has suggested that a demonstration project could be constructed to show the feasibility of successful integration.
Aside from providing additional electric generation, wind-hydro integration could yield significant economic development benefits for South Dakota towns, communities, and tribes. The construction of new generation and transmission infrastructure would create jobs and spur both long and short term economic development for the state.
It is clear that America needs to do more in the way of diversifying our national energy portfolio, and South Dakota has the capability to do the same. I will continue working with leaders at WAPA and elsewhere to expand the possibility of wind-hydro integration in South Dakota, as well as other energy solutions.