Proposal puts cloud over future of solar energy in South Dakota

Investigates

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are a small, but growing number of homeowners and businesses installing solar panels across the state.

When someone has solar panels, their energy bills are lower and they typically sell any energy they don’t use back to the utility company where it can be used elsewhere on the grid. But now Black Hills Energy is asking the South Dakota Public Utilities commission to change how that works and charge solar power customers for the energy they generate.

KELOLAND Investigates has been looking into the consequences that may have on the solar power in South Dakota.

Solar power is growing in popularity, especially in the Black Hills.

“What we do have is a lot of sun. We rival Southern California for sun days a year. We used to be called the Sunshine State,” Jared Capp said.

Solar Advocates, like sustainability builder, Jared Capp believe that solar power is the way of the future.

Jared “Cappie” Capp is owner of Pangea Design Group, a sustainability design and building firm in Spearfish

“Really what homeowners are saying is, we want to build your power generation for you. Homeowners are spending, 30, 50 thousands dollars some time to provide power generation and infrastructure that Black Hills Energy could leverage for their own use and actually if this grows big, we could actually create a free infrastructure for Black Hills Energy to use in the future,” Rachel Headley said.

Only now, Black Hills Energy is asking the Public Utilities Commission to allow it to charge solar-powered customers for all the energy they use, even what they produce on their own system.

“So really, they’re getting all that benefit, but not paying their fair share. So over time, those costs get shifted to other customers,” Marc Eyre of Black Hills Power said.

“We have a garden. It would be like the grocery store saying we have to pay for the vegetables we pull out of our own garden because they’ve put in the infrastructure of the coolers and the distribution network and we are shorting the non consumption,” Jeremy Smith of Cycle Farm said.

Jeremy Smith is owner of Cycle Farm, which uses both solar and wind power, in Spearfish

Coming up in Thursday night’s investigation at ten, “How Solar Power Could go Dark in South Dakota,” we look into how this proposed tariff would work, its affect on solar power in the state and what happened in other states when a similar policy was enacted, plus we hear more from Black Hills Energy about why they say it’s needed now.

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