Renewable Energy in South Dakota

November 30, 2021 – Several weeks ago I saw two headlines next to each other. One said “South Dakota Way Behind on Clean Energy” and the other “South Dakota Produces 2nd Most Renewable Energy in the U.S.” Obviously something is amiss in these contradictory statements. Which one is correct? I’ll give you a hint, choose the second headline!

South Dakota does indeed have the second highest percentage of electricity generated in-state coming from renewables (Vermont is first). Last year, 50% of our electricity generation came from hydropower and 33% came from wind energy. A very small fraction came from solar. The balance of our generation came from coal and natural gas plants. Wind and solar production will continue to increase as we move forward.

Because we know that hydroelectric generation is impacted by drought conditions and wind energy is intermittent based on wind speed, icing conditions, and extreme cold, South Dakota is fortunate to be part of a strong electric grid allowing us to import electricity from neighboring states when needed. Last year, just under 40% of our consumed electricity came from coal generation. That percentage is shrinking each year and has been reduced by one-third from levels just 7 years ago.

While the economics of small scale behind-the-meter wind and solar generation is challenging, more South Dakotans are installing these systems each year as costs come down. These decisions help generate on-site some of the electricity they consume lowering their electricity bill.