Library filed under Energy Policy from Nebraska
Look south from Interstate 80 in Nebraska's Panhandle and you will see a nearly endless string of wind turbines on the horizon. But none of the nearly 340 bright-white towers is in Nebraska; they're all across the border on the scrubby, high plains of Colorado. The sight of multimillion-dollar wind farms in adjacent states - but not in Nebraska - has been a constant irritant for many lawmakers and their constituents.
Concerns about cost and preserving the strength of the state's public power system could limit any new wind-power incentives. In a survey, many senators appeared reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize the state's relatively low electricity rates and some expressed doubts about whether Nebraska's electricity grid is ready to deliver wind power from rural areas, where it would be generated, to urban areas, where the demand is higher.
People listening to policymakers debate the nation's energy future might think: Just erect a lot of wind turbines, and problem solved. Or install a bunch of solar panels, and let the sun do the work. But renewable energy alternatives present costs and challenges just like traditional energy sources - coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydropower.
When Congress adopted higher standards for the use of corn-based ethanol, a gold rush of ethanol plant construction in Nebraska and the Great Plains resulted. A similar decision concerning wind energy, which will soon face federal lawmakers ...Shelley Sahling-Zart, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Power Association, said utilities have varying abilities to meet such mandates. She said they should be free to pursue renewables as "they make economic sense for our customers."
Asche discussed challenges that face the public power industry from the current push toward wind for export. ...He said the current public power model is based on the concept that power generated is for Nebraska customers with any excess power then made available for sale to other markets. Under the "wind for export" model, power would be generated for the sole purpose of selling it outside the state.
The Nebraska Public Power District has received 18 proposals to build wind farms in central and northeast Nebraska. Nine developers submitted the proposals in time for Wednesday's deadline.
At a time when renewable energy is all the rage, one of the windiest states in the nation seems unlikely to spur new projects because of a tight budget with little wiggle room. ...And Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who leads the legislative committee that sets tax policy, said while wind energy incentives and the like are important, "I don't think we're going to be able to do much this year."
Seems like there's plenty of interest in helping the Omaha Public Power District more fully embrace wind power. The uility on Friday received 12 proposals to provide it up to 80 megawatts of wind energy.
Utilities, private contractors and entrepreneurs know how to build wind farms. They can evaluate wind potential, negotiate easements with farmers and ranchers, construct 230-foot tall towers topped with 131-foot blades, and put electricity on the grid if there's access to transmission lines. What they can't do is chart a clear path to the future for wind energy because it will be greatly influenced by decisions made in Washington, D.C. For now, there is no comprehensive national energy policy.
At this time last year, Nebraska advocates for wind energy were bracing for another legislative session of mostly futile efforts to nudge public power out of its resistance to privately developed wind projects. Now, the Nebraska Public Power District, the state's largest public utility, is negotiating with three private developers on projects totaling 150 megawatts a figure that would dwarf the state's current production of 73 MW per year. ...But not everyone is excited about the push into wind. ...Southern [Power District] spokeswoman LeAnne Doose said the utility's board is concerned about installing a traditionally more costly form of power at a time when utilities are passing double-digit rate increases. Doose said she has seen a groundswell of support for wind energy, but she's concerned that utilities might bow to popular pressure rather than coming at wind with "a common-sense approach." "It's coming," Doose said. "We just hope that it's done in more of a sensible way."
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
But putting up wind turbines and generating electricity from wind power is not a simple solution. There are a number of factors to consider when installing turbines, and one of the most important factors is something called transmission.