Senator John ThuneMost Americans realize that our nation must move toward energy independence. South Dakota can play a major role in reaching this goal by using its natural energy resources, including wind.
Energy experts have concluded that, in theory, South Dakota's wind resources, if fully developed, could provide over half of the nation's electricity. In addition to the environmental benefits that result from wind energy, additional economic benefits could be realized for South Dakota by hosting wind energy companies, further development of wind farms, and the creation of jobs from both.
Unfortunately, wind energy development faces potential obstacles - both real and perceived. Legislation currently pending in Congress, for example, could cause overregulation of wind turbine placement in order to prevent bird and bat fatalities. This burdensome proposal would unnecessarily slow the development of wind farms.
Like other South Dakotans, I enjoy and appreciate South Dakota wildlife. But the risks of wildlife deaths associated with wind turbines are overstated.
In 2001, a study concluded that commercial wind turbines cause the direct deaths of only 0.01% to 0.02% of all the birds killed by man-made structures and activities in the United States. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) approximately 160 million birds die from collisions with utility transmission lines every year.
Unfortunately, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, certain environmentalists "manage to find a problem for every environmental solution." I find it very troubling when clean energy like wind power is unfairly criticized and condemned and its threats to wildlife exaggerated. And the clean energy produced by these sources, which can greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels, is completely ignored.
Opponents of the legislation in Congress that would restrict wind energy development include AWEA, which has stated that the language in this bill would "single out the wind-power industry for a range of onerous new requirements that do not apply to other forms of electricity generation." This bill would have "a hugely devastating impact" on the wind industry, according to AWEA, crippling the momentum that has been gained in recent years.
The benefits of cleaner, renewable energy far outweigh the unfortunate and inevitable loss of a minute percentage of bird and bat populations. With wind, as with all other alternative energy proposals, we must proceed carefully, utilize research-based data, and most importantly, apply common sense.