South Dakota’s renewable program is setting a high bar for other American states, ranking third in the United States for its renewable energy use. In fact, 80 percent of Mount Rushmore State’s energy generation is carbon-free, a number that continues to grow as the state rapidly adds more wind and solar. Many renewable energy projects are currently under construction or slated to begin in 2022. The state and its utilities are also working hard to improve the power grid so that future projects can utilize it easily.
The wind is a unique force across this area of the country, with much of the state’s land still unobstructed high prairie grasslands and farms. This presents a unique opportunity to easily harness significant wind energy as a power resource for its businesses and citizens. South Dakota doubled its net electricity generation between 2008 and 2020 due to wind, solar, hydropower, and natural gas use. Wind now supplies a third of this power, while traditional coal power is dropping annually. South Dakota is one of only six states producing at least 20 percent of its energy through wind power.
That’s partially due to the explosion of solar farms across the area. In Sioux Falls, POET Biorefining recently opened its first on-site solar farm. The farm is a part of the company’s pledge of carbon neutrality by 2050. The farm generates enough power to supply 90 homes for a year – and any excess power will be distributed to the city’s power grid for local homes and buildings.
“At POET, we’re working every day to chart a path toward carbon neutrality while growing our portfolio of plant-based bioproducts and renewable energy solutions,” explained CEO Jeff Broin. “We’re very excited about the first POET Solar Farm, which exemplifies our commitment to achieving our sustainability goals and cultivating a brighter future through the power of natural resources.”
The Fall River Solar Project, a brand new 80-megawatt farm, is also coming online near Rapid City, where the Montana Sun Solar company has converted 500 acres into a sun-harnessing site. The Fall River Project will be one of the biggest in the state.
Xcel Energy, which supplies power to a significant part of the state, is also adding more and more renewable energy to its overall system, with hopes to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. This means increasing renewable usage by at least 20 percent each year and immediate updates to its outdated grid system. South Dakota is truly clearing the air with its transition to power via renewable sources. This transition is not only improving the environment, but also it is adding new clean energy jobs to many rural communities. With renewable energy production expected to double across the United States by 2050, South Dakota already has a strong lead in the race to a clean, healthy, and sustainable energy future.