Lincoln Electric System to buy more wind energy

Source: By Russell Hubbard / World-Herald staff writer • Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014

Lincoln Electric System said Friday it has agreed to buy additional supplies of wind energy.

The customer-owned electric utility said it plans to buy 73 megawatts of wind energy by 2016 from the Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center in northeastern Nebraska and 100 megawatts from the Buckeye Wind Energy Center in north-central Kansas. LES also said Friday it plans to add five megawatts of solar power by 2016.

The addition of wind and solar generation comes as the nation’s coal-fired electric plants face stricter emissions regulations, leading to plans for shuttering them or converting them to burn natural gas. By next year, Nebraska wind, solar and other renewable generation will account for about 1,209 megawatts, or about 14 percent of the state total.

Congress this month extended a tax credit good for 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind installations started this year, as it requires government incentives to be of interest to investors. The tax credit’s future beyond the end of 2014 is uncertain.

“As this industry changes, we will continue to find a way to balance our mix of resources, control costs, ensure the reliable delivery of power and keep rates affordable for LES customer-owners,” said LES Chief Executive Kevin Wailes. “This is a very opportune time for LES to invest in more wind energy due to future uncertainties of federal production tax credits for wind developers, potential additional regulations on power plant emissions, and the volatility of fossil fuel prices.”

The new generation will bring LES’s wind portfolio to 304 megawatts. Just two years ago, Nebraska wind installations generated only 459 megawatts, or 5 percent of the state’s total. About 750 megawatts of new wind power has been added since then, with a 400-megawatt project planned for next year.

The Nebraska Public Power District says it already is close to reaching its 2020 goal of 10 percent of its energy with renewables, primarily wind. The Omaha Public Power District says it has a long-term goal of generating 30 percent of its electricity from wind.

The new LES solar array will be near 75th Street and West Holdrege Street in Lincoln, visible from Interstate 80.