Library from Nebraska
SPRINGVIEW, Neb. - In this ranching village near the South Dakota border, there's a Turbine Avenue and a Turbine Mart convenience store and the annual Wind Turbine Days festival. But soon the two wind turbines that inspired those names - the first in Nebraska when they were erected in 1998 - may be coming down. Frequent breakdowns and increasingly expensive repairs are dooming the graceful structures.
Gov. Heineman signed a bill Monday encouraging communities to develop the wind turbines that generate electricity. The new law financially encourages towns and landowners to develop a "field" of turbines, working in conjunction with Nebraska's public power companies. Under that model, rural Nebraskans would own the development and not sell the wind rights to private companies. The bill recently passed the Legislature, 49-0.
State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure to encourage wind farms in Nebraska. The bill would permit public power districts to work with private developers and landowners to build electricity-generating wind turbines. All 49 lawmakers voted in favor of Legislative Bill 629, which now goes to Gov. Dave Heineman for his signature. Under the plan, developers and private equity firms would work with rural Nebraskans to build wind farms and collect federal incentives for alternative energy production. When the incentives expire after 10 years, the Nebraskans would attain full ownership of the projects.
Filibusters in the Nebraska Legislature can't compare with the wind blowing through Boone County fields east of here. New wind maps prove what many Boone County residents have known for years - the wind really does blow harder and more often in these hills. Now, with a wind farm being proposed for the Petersburg area, that wind could become another crop to be harvested and put some extra cash in farmers' pockets. Jim Jenkins, Nebraska representative for Third Planet Windpower of Bad Axe, Mich., stresses that the company is still in the early phases of negotiations and discussion with regard to "the business structure' for its proposed investment of up to $170 million in a wind farm east of here.
It's all about community support. A proposed 100-megawatt, 48-turbine wind farm in northwest Holt County wouldn't stand a chance of success without it, said Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy of Chicago.
CAMBRIA, Wis. -- With empty storefronts on the main drag and corn stubble stretching for miles in the surrounding hills, this fading farm town seems like a natural stop for the ethanol express. Not to John Mueller, though. The 54-year-old stay-at-home dad has led a dogged battle to prevent a corn mill from building an ethanol plant up the hill from the village school. Concerned about air pollution, the water supply and the mill's environmental track record, Mr. Mueller and his group, Cambrians for Thoughtful Development, have blitzed the village's 800 residents with fliers, packed public meetings and set up a sophisticated Web site. The mill has fought back with its own publicity campaign and local corn farmers have taken to the streets in tractors to show support. Now, as the mill races to build the $70 million plant, the matter is headed to the federal courthouse in Madison, 40 miles southwest.
Nebraska could be on the verge of what some people say is the biggest land grab since the Homestead days, when early settlers staked their claims to 160 acres. But this time, speculators are after thousand of acres of land, not hundreds. And they don't want the land for growing crops. They want to use it to harvest wind energy. "Nebraska has not seen this kind of gold rush mentality," said John Hansen, president of the Lincoln-based Nebraska Farmers Union. "Nebraska is sitting on a ton of wind capacity."
When Midwest Wind Energy announced last week its intention to build the state's largest wind plant in north-central Nebraska, it was greeted by alarm, not joy, from several of the state's staunchest advocates of wind power. "This is the exact scenario that we've been aggressively working with public power for the last three years to avoid," said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. Hansen and others are concerned that such projects will siphon potential profits from wind energy to out-of-state developers, rather than keeping them with Nebraskan landowners. The project is the latest flash point in a long-standing debate over how wind energy should be developed in Nebraska, the nation's only public-power state.
A company specializing in renewable energy plans to build a wind farm in northcentral Nebraska that would be the state's largest wind power operation. Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy LLC, confirmed Friday that a 100 megawatt wind farm is in the works for Holt County. The project would cost $160 million.
Proponents call it the biggest new idea in wind energy in Nebraska in decades: wind turbines dotting the hills, harnessing wind for the financial benefit of members of a local community. A plan in front of a legislative committee would offer a sales tax exemption for community-based energy development groups — co-ops of Nebraska residents, tribal councils and even school districts could qualify. The exemption would apply to the cost of materials used to manufacture, install, construct, repair or replace wind turbines that convert wind to usable energy. It’s “a good investment in Nebraska’s rural communities,” said state Sen. Don Preister of Bellevue, who introduced the bill (LB648). The Legislature’s Revenue Committee held a public hearing on Thursday.
“There’s no other state in the country that has as much wind energy potential as Nebraska that has done as little as Nebraska to develop it,” said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union.
Tapping the wind for energy is an area ripe for development in Nebraska says Governor Dave Heineman. “Wind energy is another alternative energy source we need to take a look at,” said Heineman at the Nebraska Farmers Union state convention this week. This conventions theme was farmer- and community-owned renewable energy.
A national wind-energy advocate blasted Nebraska for not doing more to turn its stiff breezes into power, placing much of the blame on Nebraska’s dominant electric utility. While adjoining states such as Iowa and Colorado have hundreds of wind turbines, and the policies in place to encourage more, Nebraska has less than 50 and should not “bury it’s head in the sand, or the coalfields, for that matter,” Dan McGuire told members of the Nebraska Farmers Union gathered in Grand Island for an annual convention. Nebraska ranks sixth among all states for wind generated, McGuire said, “but the Cornhusker state is lagging way behind other states,” in the development of wind farms, he said.
Greenblatt noted that while wind power could produce impressive amounts of peak energy during strong gusts, the biggest problem was wind power’s intermittency. The problem could be addressed by a process called compressed air energy storage, where excess energy could be used to pump compressed air into underground storage facilities that could include abandoned mines. When the wind was not blowing, he said, the compressed air could be tapped and combined with the burning of natural gas to create high-efficiency electrical generators approximating the efficiency levels of coal-fueled power plants.
Wind farms in Kansas, Nebraska and California will play a role in Colorado Springs Utilities’ compliance with a voter-approved mandate on renewable energy. But homes and businesses in Colorado Springs won’t be getting electricity produced by harnessing wind in those places. Instead, renewable energy credits will be logged into Colorado Springs Utilities’ books.
The turbines do bother some folks, including Glenn R. Schleede, a retired power company executive from Round Hill, Va., who said the wind power industry puts out “absolute baloney” to justify its existence. “I’m tired of subsidizing Warren Buffett companies,” Schleede said, referring to federal tax subsidies that go to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a division of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that is headed by Buffett. Those are MidAmerican’s turbines in the fields around Schaller. Schleede’s criticisms, mostly in academic-style papers he writes, concentrate on the economics of wind power and what he called “false claims about how this is good for an energy system.” “In fact, these things, because they’re intermittent and volatile and unpredictable, they don’t really add a lot of capacity to an electric grid,” he said. “When you see these things advertised, they talk about how many megawatts of capacity, the number of homes served and all that garbage. “I would maintain that they don’t serve any homes.”
A privately owned wind farm project for northeast Nebraska was placed on hold by the Nebraska Public Power District.
A decision by Nebraska Public Power District Friday to review potential opportunities for expanding the utility's involvement in wind energy projects is an important development for Nebraska, said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union.
Nebraska’s first privately owned wind farm could be built somewhere in northeast Nebraska.
"The two wind turbines we bought are supposed to last 20 to 25 years," Stradley said. "But, in order to last that long, we should have minor problems, and those weren't minor." LES relies on a coal power plant in Wheatland, Wyo., and two power plants near North Platte for most of its electricity. Wind turbines only work if there is wind, he said - they can't generate electricity when the wind is still.