The prairies and rolling hills of South Dakota will soon become dotted with wind turbines after the approval of eight major wind-energy projects that will bring 700 more turbines and an investment of $2.6 billion in the state by the end of 2020.
Two other projects now in the regulatory approval process would bring 188 more turbines and another $640 million in investments to the state, bringing the total of new turbines to 888 and the investment by energy companies to $3.26 billion.
The rapid expansion of wind energy will reach across the state, with the majority of new turbines targeted for the northeast corner, but with other projects planned in Hand and Hyde counties in the center of the state and one 45-turbine project now under construction near Newell in Butte County in the far northwest.
Just two years ago, despite being home to the third-most-active winds in the nation, South Dakota ranked No. 19 for wind-energy production among the 50 states, with 15 wind farms and a total of 584 turbines able to generate 1,014 megawatts of electricity.
New national ranking data is not yet available, but the approved and docketed projects would raise the total of wind farms to 25 and nearly triple the number of wind towers in the state. The electricity-production capacity would rise to more than 3,600 megawatts. Though it is variable, one megawatt of electricity can power about 1,000 homes; South Dakota ranks third in the nation for the number of homes, about 300,000, that are powered by wind energy.