South Dakota Town Forced to “Dump” Excess Renewable Power

Just last week, South Dakota blogger Cory Heidelberger reported on Madville Times about the impressive clean energy project recently completed in Colton, SD (pop. 662 in 2000).

A short piece in yesterday’s Argus Leader (one of the leading South Dakota newspapers, based in Sioux Falls), reports that excess energy produced at the new solar and wind facility in Colton  will just be “dumped.” It’s not clear from either the blog or the newspaper whether or not Colton’s new wind and solar installations are connected to the grid and the city just isn’t being paid for any power production in excess of its needs. But it seems to be the case that Colton’s residents are missing out on some extra income that would be coming their way if a net metering agreement were in place.

Colton’s new clean energy infrastructure is a much-publicized South Dakota success story. The town recently celebrated Ken Hitzeman Day, to honor the local resident who spearheaded the project. According to a Department of Energy web page featuring the project, Colton used a $55,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to implement a comprehensive Energy Independence Community Initiative. “A majority of the grant funds will go toward a solar energy system at City Hall and energy efficient retrofits at the East and West City Shops, the location of Colton’s public works operations,” the site says.

The city’s new 1 kW solar array and 1.2 kW wind turbines will serve the East and West City Shops, which are also receiving new electric service panels, energy efficient furnaces and lighting retrofits. Entry doors, overhead garage doors and windows will be replaced with insulated and more efficient models at the West City Shop. The changes will double the city’s public works space to 5,000 sq. ft while reducing the overall energy cost of city operations. The projects are estimated to reduce the city’s natural gas and electric bills by $2,700 annually. The total project payoff is 19 years.

“We want to showcase this energy efficient technology and be a model for other communities to see,” says Mayor Erik Miller.

This is wonderful for Colton, but “dumping” clean energy (or not getting paid for producing more than the town needs) is a sad state of affairs. Colton’s electric utility is Sioux Valley Energy, a rural electric cooperative headquartered in Colman, SD, about 20 miles away.

I called Colton to ask about what happened, if they’re connected to the grid, and if there was any hope of negotiating a net metering agreement with Sioux Valley. It’s a small town, so the mayor, city administrator and public works director were off doing their jobs and weren’t available to respond to questions right away. When I reach them, I’ll ask if our Clean Energy Ambassadors program might be able to help move things forward by researching interconnection and net metering agreements that have worked in similar situations.

Who knows, maybe Colton could be an even bigger success story?

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3 Responses to South Dakota Town Forced to “Dump” Excess Renewable Power

  1. Someone asked that very question at the ribbon-cutting I attended two weeks ago. The city administrator said that excess power does flow back into the grid, but because the South Dakota Legislature has blocked net-metering legislation, Colton gets nothing inreturn for any excess power it generates. Upon hearing this, the crowd responded with what I read as a knowing and grouchy hush.

  2. Greg Rislov says:

    I would contact the South Dakota PUC.

  3. Kelly Fuller says:

    The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission can’t do anything about it. The PUC doesn’t have authority to regulate public power utilities, such as rural electric cooperatives. But the South Dakota legislature does have that authority.

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