“Red” Nebraska Is Ready For Its Wind Power Closeup

Source: By Tina Casey, GreenTech • Posted: Friday, September 6, 2019

The political divide over renewable energy is finally starting to blur. That’s a big deal, because many of the prime onshore wind power states in the US fall onto the “red” side. A case in point is Nebraska. Though it boasts some of the best wind in the US, it ranks a lowly #15 in installed capacity. Nevertheless, the economic case for wind power is a compelling one, and the naysayers will find it difficult to push back against the latest Nebraska wind farm to get off the drawing board.

wind power NebraskaNebraska wind power via Lincoln Clean Energy

More Wind Power For Nebraska

Lincoln Clean Energy is the developer behind the newly approved Plum Creek wind farm, located in Wayne County, Nebraska.

If Lincoln doesn’t ring a bell, it will soon. The company has a footprint in the leading wind state of Texas and it is also represented in South Dakota, another state poised to dominate the renewable energy scene in both wind and solar.

Also, Lincoln is a subsidiary of the global wind leader Ørsted. All in all that’s a good indication that Nebraska really is poised to vault into the top wind-producing US states.

Ørsted made headlines earlier this year when it nailed down the right to build 1,100 megawatts worth of offshore wind for New York State. Plum Creek is small in comparison at 230 megawatts, but it could have a huge impact on future wind development in Nebraska.

According to Ørsted, the new wind farm will pump $3 million per year into the property tax profile of Wayne County, much of which will go to school districts.

The new wind farm will also help make the state more attractive to big corporations, which are hungry to rack up sustainable business points with renewable energy. They’ll have to get in line. J.M. Smucker Company, Vail Resorts, and Avery Dennison(the packaging people) have already staked their claim to output from Plum Creek through long term power purchase agreements.

When Plum Creek was still in the proposal stage last winter, the Wayne Daily News took a deep dive into the new wind project and teased out some interesting details (follow the link and support local media!). For example, the wind farm’s 82 GE turbines will sport energy-saving, FAA approved radar lights that only wink on in the presence of an airplane.

More Wind Power For Facebook & Adobe, Too

The new wind power project follows another high profile wind project that recently got off the boards in Nebraska, Enel’s Rattlesnake Creek wind farm.

That project was kicking around in the back room for years before it finally got off the ground, thanks to a clean energy deal that lured Facebook into building its new Papillion data center in Dixon County, Nebraska.

Last June, the Omaha World-Herald took a close look at the Rattlesnake wind project (please follow the link for more detail) and noted that Facebook’s part of the deal includes a “special rate” for 310 megawatts out of the wind farm’s 320 megawatt capacity. The remaining 10 megawatts go to Adobe until 2029, when Facebook will suction off those as well.

Output from Rattlesnake feeds into the local grid, demonstrating that Nebraska can attract new business development without necessarily building new coal or gas power plants.

Reporter Reece Ristau also notes that the 20-year lifespan of Rattlesnake Creek translates into $90 million in tax revenue for Dixon County and residents thereof, including $55 million to property owners who leased their land out for the project.

Spam! Loves Wind Power

If all goes according to plan, get ready for more wind power fireworks over Nebraska. Last spring, Lincoln Journal-Starreporter Matt Olberding (you know the drill) reported that Nebraska ranked #1 for wind energy growth in 2018 on a percentage basis, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

One particularly interesting project on the boards is a virtual power purchase agreement  involving Hormel (the Spam people), the Kinect Energy Group, and a new 74 megawatt wind farm near Lincoln.

Under the deal, Hormel gets a fixed rate for wind power from the new project, and it can pocket the difference if the market price of wind is higher.

No such luck if wind prices go below the fixed rate, but Hormel still gets to rack up sustainability points for renewable energy. That has value in terms of consumer relations as well as supply chain relationships, and the VPPA will help enable the company to offset almost 50% of its energy use with clean power.

Circling back around to Avery Dennison, that company has some interesting sustainability initiatives up its sleeve and CleanTechnica is reaching out for more insights, so stay tuned for more on that.