"The message is loud and clear that South Dakotans want to fully develop wind power in concert with cellulosic and corn-based ethanol, hydroelectric power generation, and other potential alternative energy possibilities the state of South Dakota enjoys. The federal government needs to ensure that transmission bottlenecks that limit the development of wind power in rural areas are adequately addressed and eliminated. As I know from growing up in Murdo, South Dakota has an endless supply of wind," Thune said.
Following the PUC meeting, Senator Thune will travel to Howard, South Dakota to tour two wind power-related businesses. Knight & Carver Company, which manufactures and refurbishes wind tower blades, and Energy Maintenance Service, which repairs wind turbines. Thune will tour the facilities accompanied by State Representative Russ Olson, newly-appointed USDA Rural Development Director Mike Jaspers, and Randy Parry of the Miner County Community Revitalization project.
In recent years, Senator Thune has been a consistent supporter of promoting wind power development through the use of the wind power tax credit. Thune supported a one-year extension (through 12/31/2008) of the wind tax credit as part of the Tax Relief and Healthcare Act of 2006. "As Congress considers energy legislation later this year, I will continue to support the tax credit and to place a very high priority on the development of South Dakota's wind power potential," Thune said.
On April 3rd, Senator Thune also met with officials of the Western Area Power Administration in Watertown, South Dakota to discuss transmission bottleneck issues and wind power development. Yesterday, Senator Thune sent a letter to WAPA requesting an expeditious review of the concept of integrating the generation of hydro-power from Missouri River dams and wind farms in central South Dakota. "If it is possible to tap South Dakota's strong winds for electric power generation and utilize our hydroelectric dams when the winds die down, it would mark a major development in South Dakota's power generation," Thune said. "At a time when WAPA is dramatically increasing the price of power sold to South Dakotans, it is critical that WAPA vigorously explore all alternative energy options," Thune said.
Senator Thune also spent much of last week addressing the importance of expanding ethanol production to meet American energy needs. On April 4th, Thune convened a hearing of the Energy Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate's Agriculture Committee at South Dakota State University in Brookings. This hearing focused on the 2007 reauthorization of the Farm Bill and the potential development of cellulosic ethanol as our nation looks to reduce its dependence on foreign sources of energy. Last week, Senator Thune also toured the ethanol testing facility at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, a switchgrass field near Arlington, and South Dakota's first ethanol plant in Scotland.
"South Dakota is blessed with a tremendous potential for producing and growing alternative energy. From corn ethanol in the east to cellulosic ethanol manufactured from native grasses and wood chips across the rest of the state, in addition to wind and water generated electrical power, South Dakota can play a vital role in expanding our nation's use of cleaner sources of energy," said Thune.