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Nearly 900 more wind turbines coming to S.D. (PartI)

(Ed. Note — This is Part I of a two-part story. Part II will appear in tomorrow’s paper)

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 could 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 for Hand and Hyde counties in the center of the state and a 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 high in the nation for the number of homes, about 300,000, that are powered by wind energy.

Any new energy project is subject to extensive review and typically draws significant opposition. Most of the new wind farms approved for construction in South Dakota faced questions by neighbors about the impacts of 500-foot tall towers, noise and light flicker from rotors that operate in a 380-foot diameter, and the potential effects on property values and local birds and wildlife.

Those who support renewable energy and the economic benefits of new industry, however, are exuberant over the spate of new wind farms approved for construction. The eight project approvals all came between June 2018 and July 2019.

“For rural South Dakota, this is an awesome boom,” said Steven Wegman of the South Dakota Renewable Energy Association. “No one ever spent $300 million in Codington County in a construction season.”

Landowners, local governments and schools will all see significant financial benefits from the projects.

One wind farm approved in Clark County, the Crocker Wind Farm, will pay leaseholders $46 million over the next 20 years, according to documents filed by developer Geronimo Energy. That project, which includes up to 120 turbines and an expected investment of $600 million, will also create 10-20 full-time jobs, support a “community fund” of $1.6 million, and generate $36 million in tax revenues for the state, county, township and local schools in its first two decades of operation.

Help the State Library with its long-term plans

The South Dakota State Library is running “Libraries — the Future” open forums across the state. The discussion meetings are to gather information to be used toward improving local libraries as well as the State Library. This summer the State Library is writing its next five-year strategic plan, which will take it through 2023.

Earlier forums were held in March — three in Aberdeen and three in Sioux Falls. Winter storms postponed the other forums until now.

Three were held in Pierre, Sept. 5, two at the State Library and one at the Rawlins Library. Three more are being done in Rapid City, Sept. 6-7.

The State Library itself hosted two of the citizen-based conversation meetings Sept. 5, then that evening Pierre’s Rawlins Library hosted its forum.

General citizens — specifically teachers, school administrators, city leaders, librarians, library trustees — discussed the future of library services in South Dakota.

“Pat Wagner can make a mundane subject interesting. She has a way about her,” said Robin Schrupp, Rawlins librarian.

Wagner, from Research Patterns, Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the facilitator for these discussions. Wagner covers the importance of the State Library, what it and other libraries do, and the results of the ongoing statewide survey. “Pat’s main job is as a trainer and consultant for libraries, covering such things such as project and conflict management,” said Schrupp.

During the meetings, Daria Bossman, state librarian, said South Dakota has a “mixed bag” of how much certified training various librarians have, depending on the size and funding of their library, and if they work in public schools or community libraries. Some librarians have master’s degrees, while others are working through state training just to be certified.

Bossman discussed the “prairie mentality,” which for libraries is not a good thing. Never getting rid of anything, such as books, is not always the way to go.

South Dakota was, and could still be, one of the top five states in the nation with the highest number of books in libraries per capita. Older, unused books should be “weeded out” to make room for newer books, for computers, for even multi-use conference/community rooms.

Wagner and Bossman led a group discussion on how modern libraries serve all generations, including those that require silent as well as noisy/busy areas in their library.

“Followers of local libraries, such as Pierre’s own Rawlins Library, are impacted by the State Library,” said Schrupp. “Basically, the State Library is working on its long-term plan and wants public input. Local libraries have very solid partnerships with the State Library, In particular, the State Library provides access to databases, grant opportunities and training opportunities you’ll find at local libraries. Local libraries are very much encouraging public engagement.”

The forum is looking for input. The start-up questions include:

What are the challenges that South Dakota libraries face?

What are the immediate needs of your library?

If everything was perfect in 10 years for libraries, what would be different? Services? Programs? Staff? Buildings? Collections?

What do you need to reach that ‘perfect’ future?

What technology tools would you like our libraries to have?

“The result will hopefully be a new Five-Year State Library Strategic Plan for the State Library (not to be confused with the Library Services and Technology Act five-Year Plan which was just approved by the Institute of Museum and Library Services),” said Schrupp.

USDA: Rental rates, land values rise in 2019

Average U.S. farmland values and rental rates rose in 2019, according to two new annual reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The national trend was reflected in most of the Upper Midwest. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana generally had higher average farmland values and rental rates, although values and rates fell in Minnesota.

The reports didn’t address why average farmland values and rental rates rose at a time of generally poor crop prices and limited profits. But agricultural economists have said that unappealing returns from competing investments such as certificates of deposit can make farmland more attractive financially. Experts also say that some farmers remain financially sound and want to expand by buying or renting land.

Another factor, according to experts, is that Upper Midwest land prices rose relatively slowly compared to other parts of the country during the ag boom of 2008-2012, and consequently have more potential to rise now.

Nationwide, average cropland values rose 1.2 percent to $4,100 per acre in 2019. Average pasture values rose 2.2 percent to $1,400 per acre. Average per-acre rental rates for cropland rose marginally, from $138 in 2018 to $140 in 2019.

Here’s a closer look at North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota. Keep in mind that the statewide average frequently blurs big differences in different areas of the state.

South Dakota: Average cropland values, up 0.3 percent to $3,130 per acre. Average pasture values, up 1 percent to $1,050 per acre. Average cropland rental rates, steady at $119 per acre.

North Dakota: Average cropland values, up 2.7 percent to $1,920 per acre. Average pasture values, up 5.7 percent to $820 per acre. Average cropland rental rates, up from $65 per acre in 2018 to $70 per acre in 2019.

Montana: Average cropland values, up 2 percent to $1,040 per acre. Average pastures values, up 1.9 percent to $680. Average cropland rental rates, up from $32 per acre in 2018 to $32.5 per acre in 2019.

Minnesota: Average cropland values, down 2.8percent to $4,810 per acre. Average pasture values, down 2.9percent to $1,700 per acre. Average cropland rental rental rates, down from $167 per acre in 2018 to $164 per acre in 2019.

Again, the reports didn’t address why Minnesota bucked the national trend. But the dairy industry, important in Minnesota, has struggled in recent years, and parts of the state were hit with heavy, destructive rains earlier this year.

Another consideration is that while land prices generally rose on the Great Plains, they were flat or down in much of the Corn Belt and surrounding states.

Central South Dakota heart walk

Put your heart first – join the Central South Dakota American Heart Association Heart Walk to save lives in South Dakota. Heart Walk participants take healthy steps to stomp out heart disease and stroke

Hundreds of South Dakotans are expected to join the Heart Walk on September 21 to raise funds to fight heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world.

The annual event begins at 10 a.m. at Hyde Stadium.

The non-competitive, 3-mile walk includes teams of employees from local companies, along with friends and family members of all ages. The event not only raises funds, but also educates attendees about the benefits of physical activity, including walking. The Heart Walk is a free event and is open to the public.

Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.

The American Heart Association will be recognizing individuals who have made positive changes to improve their quality of life and health with the Healthy For Good Lifestyle Award program. Nominations are now open for this honor. Achievements can include positive changes in one or more heart healthy areas, including diet, physical activity and overall wellness. Recognition is given based on criteria evaluating the significance of the change that was achieved; any obstacles that were surpassed in achieving the goal; and the power that positive lifestyle change had not only on the individual achieving it but also those around him/her (i.e. family, friends, co-workers, community).

The American Heart Association also will be recognizing and honoring six Central SD individuals and their families who have been affected by heart disease and stroke. 2019 Heart Walk Honorees are Herman Kindle, survivor; Royce Loesch, honoree; Judy Weldin, survivor; Donald “Donny” Manger, honoree; Mike Leidholt, survivor; and Rob Loe, honoree.

The annual success of the Central South Dakota Heart Walk is due in part to presenting sponsors Avera Heart Hospital and Avera Health. The Heart Walk is also sponsored locally by BankWest, Sanford Health, KELO TV, and Midco.

For information on participating in the Heart Walk, visit www.WestCentralSDHeartWalk.org.

State Air, Army National Guard units earn national awards

South Dakota Air and Army National Guard units continue to earn top honors for performance excellence. They brought home four awards from the 2019 National Guard Association of the United States annual conference in Denver, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

The Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing of Sioux Falls earned the Winston P. Wilson Trophy, presented to the most outstanding Air National Guard flying unit of the year equipped with jet fighter or reconnaissance aircraft.

The South Dakota Army National Guard units once again received awards in all three of the Army categories.

The 139th Brigade Support Battalion of Brookings earned the Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord Trophy as the most outstanding Army National Guard battalion in the nation for achieving the highest standards in training and readiness.

The Huron-based Forward Support Company of the 153rd Engineer Battalion earned the General John J. Pershing Plaque for weapons marksmanship. The unit attained the highest figure of merit (highest percentage of assigned members qualified) during annual weapons qualification firing with assigned individual weapons.

The Vermillion-based 730th Area Support Medical Company earned the Certificate of Victory for having the highest overall figure of merit in the nation.

“Units from the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard continue to demonstrate their outstanding performance and excellence in readiness by receiving these prestigious national awards,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette, SDNG adjutant general. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Soldiers and Airmen of the South Dakota National Guard.”

“Once again the men and women of the South Dakota National Guard have shown they are among the best units across the country,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “Receiving these awards is a testament to their commitment, dedication and hard work in maintaining their operational readiness for our state and nation.”