Nebraska Unicameral advances wind energy bill

Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013

LINCOLN (AP) — A plan aimed at attracting wind-energy farms to Nebraska is headed to a final vote in the Legislature.

Lawmakers gave second-round approval Tuesday to the bill that would extend sales tax exemptions to wind-energy companies. One firm, TradeWind Energy, has expressed interest in developing a wind farm in Dixon County near the Iowa and South Dakota border.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said LB104 is designed to keep Nebraska competitive with other high-wind states in the Plains that have offered tax incentives, allowing companies to reduce their costs. Nebraska currently charges a sales tax on all equipment and materials used in wind-energy projects.

“Clearly, the potential is enormous and the development lagging behind,” Lathrop said.

Some lawmakers questioned whether Nebraska residents would receive enough of the direct benefits and whether the proposal would run afoul of state laws that govern public power. Smith said lawmakers should first study Nebraska’s energy policy, although bill supporters argued that doing so would likely cost the state a possible business deal with TradeWind, of Lenexa, Kan.

Lathrop said the 200-megawatt wind farm would provide lease payments to local landowners of $10,000 to $15,000 per turbine, create 200 construction jobs and 12 to 16 permanent jobs, and generate $700,000 a year in local taxes.

Nebraska ranks as one of the nation’s biggest wind-producing states, but 26th in the energy it could produce with equipment currently installed. It lags behind its neighboring states: Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas.

The vote came as TradeWind Energy considers building a wind farm in northeast Nebraska. In April, Nebraska officially lost a bid to attract a $300 million Facebook data center to Iowa.