Articles from Nebraska
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.
Midwest Wind Energy obtained "exclusive options" from landowners covering more than 6,000 acres near Douglas and Burr in Otoe County and about 5,000 acres near Plattsmouth, said Mike Donahue, executive vice president of the company. Donahue said the company is looking at both counties, which are within OPPD's service territory, and sites elsewhere, including Iowa and Kansas, in an attempt to win a renewable energy contract with the utility. OPPD has asked developers to submit proposals to supply 80 megawatts of wind generation. The deadline for proposals is Oct. 10.
Plans to build one of Nebraska's largest wind farms have set the wheels in motion for the expansion of the substation located approximately 5 miles north of Bloomfield. "We're expanding the substation to, first of all, support the planned 80-megawatt wind farm with Midwest Energy, and secondly, a 40-megawatt facility that hasn't formally been announced yet," said Mark Becker, media relations specialist for the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). ...But Becker said Nebraska residents won't see a reduction in electricity rates from the installation of wind farms. "Right now, wind is a fuel that is free - it's not like coal or nuclear which we have to pay for," he said. "But wind energy generation is very sporadic and we have maintenance issues, as well - turbines are mechanical and problems do arise, so there are expenses."
The Nebraska Public Power District, along with Midwest Wind Energy LLC and its affiliate Elkhorn Ridge Wind LLC, announced today that after several months of negotiations the parties have executed a 20-year power purchase agreement that will pave the way for construction of Nebraska's largest wind farm near Bloomfield. The 80-megawatt Elkhorn Ridge wind energy project, to be constructed by the end of 2008, is expected to produce an amount of energy equivalent to the amount of electricity used by approximately 25,000 Nebraska residences in a year. The project is a direct result of NPPD's efforts to expand participation in wind development by issuing a Request For Proposal last July for wind projects up to 100 megawatts in size.
Whooping cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, have waged a valiant battle against extinction. But federal officials warn of a new potential threat to the endangered whoopers: wind farms. Down to as few as 16 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate 2,400 miles each fall from Canada to Texas, thanks to conservation efforts, now number about 266. But because wind energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk - from either crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms. "Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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."
Seven proposals for wind-powered generation projects are in the initial stages of review by the Nebraska Public Power District. In mid-July, NPPD invited developers interested in building and operating more wind-powered generation in Nebraska to submit proposals by Aug. 20. NPPD said it will evaluate the projects and make a recommendation to its board of directors. The projects could add 100 megawatts of wind power to the utility's existing nuclear, coal, wind, water, diesel and natural gas facilities.
It will be November before a final decision is made, but at least two companies have indicated an interest in building a transmission line that would pass near Hays. One of those companies - ITC Great Plains - officially is on record that it would like to build the line, which would run from Spearville to the Knoll substation just northwest of Hays and then to Axtell, Neb., just south of Kearney. While it's significant that the line would come close to Hays, it's also the first line that a relatively new state agency - on its own accord - has proposed building if no private company steps forward.
Lack of available replacement parts, significant maintenance issues as the units aged, and the opportunity to demonstrate new technology, were the prime reasons for the decision to retire the units, NPPD said in a news release.
This pair of pioneer turbines put Springview on the map just nine years ago, as a U.S. Department of Energy demonstration site to test the feasibility of small wind farms. They were Nebraska's first commercial wind turbines. With a capacity of 750 kilowatts each, the duo generates enough electricity to power about 350 homes - less than half of what today's turbines can do. The turbines have been plagued with repair and maintenance issues, causing extensive downtime and expense.
Over the past year - after building Nebraska's largest wind-powered electric generation facility near Ainsworth - the Nebraska Public Power District has received approximately a half dozen proposals from private wind developers interested in building one or more similar- or larger-sized facilities in the state.
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.