Study shows potential for Nebraska wind energy

Source: By McCook Gazzette • Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

There are plenty of economic and bureaucratic obstacles to be overcome in the long term, but Nebraska’s wind energy industry has immediate potential for even short-term expansion.

The Wind Coalition is pointing to results from an official report released today by the Nebraska Power Review Board, which commissioned a study by the Brattle Group as aresult of passage of LB 1115 last legislative session.

“The study shows how viable wind energy investment and development is in Nebraska, something all Nebraskans should be excited about,” said Jeff Clark, executive director of the coalition.

The study found that Nebraska’s existing transmission infrastructure has room for at least 2,000 MW of additional renewable generating resources — the equivalent of about one and a half Gerald Gentleman Stations. That expansion, he said, “would create jobs, spur economic growth, activity and development and would be good for Nebraska landowners and ratepayers.”

The oil industry provides a welcome boost to the Southwest Nebraska economy and landowners lucky enough to own property in the right places.

Perhaps wind power could help counterbalance falling oil prices, landowners earning cash by allowing wind turbines to be built on their land, while continuing to farm around them.

Once more power lines are built, the state has the potential for an additional 5,000 to 10,000 GW of renewable electric generating capacity, according to the study.

It calls for changes in policy to create a production tax credit, a transmission authority for renewable energy, renewable energy zone planing, merchant wind projects outside of traditional Power Purchase Agreements, and others.

As a completely public power state, “profits” from operation of the electrical system go into maintenance and replacement of the infrastructure rather than to shareholders.

That nonprofit status has put us at a disadvantage when it comes to harvesting tax credits along with renewable energy, and public power boards have faced criticism for not promoting renewables quickly enough.

But steady, measured effort has always worked well for the Cornhusker state, and the same will probably be true for expansion of our renewable energy resources.