The Mount Rushmore State Is Nearing 100% Renewable Energy

The population of the Mount Rushmore State, South Dakota is approximately 0.90 million people[1]. In June 2020, state utilities used renewable energy (85.6%), natural gas (8.8%), and coal (5.6%) to generate electricity[2]. Hydropower, wind, biomass, and solar are the primary sources of renewable energy in South Dakota.

South Dakota’s use of renewable energy contributes to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In June 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in South Dakota was 12.18 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.28 ¢ per kWh.

South Dakota is one of twenty states that does not have an enforceable statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)[3]. In 2008, state legislators enacted the Renewable, Recycled, and Conserved Energy Objective which requests investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities to generate 10% of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

The cheapest form of power without any tax incentives in onshore wind, followed by solar, hydropower and then natural gas. The economics of renewable energy are driving utilities to develop new wind farms and solar parks, while closing coal-fired power plants.

Danish power company, Ørsted has recently completed the Willow Creek Wind project, which is located in Butte County, South Dakota. Work on the 103 MW capacity wind farm commenced in 2013.

Contrary to popular opinion, establishing an enforceable renewable portfolio standard does not guarantee a state will achieve its renewable energy goals. The state must first determine its renewable energy potential and then remove land access and permitting barriers to develop new wind and solar projects.

The economics of clean green energy have encouraged utilities in South Dakota to move from expensive fossil fuel power plants to wind and solar. South Dakota is on track to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030, even without an RPS.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] South Dakota Population 2020, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Energy Information Agency – South Dakota Profile and Energy Estimates

[3] Ballotpedia – Energy Policy in South Dakota

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