This week, the Nebraska legislature passed a law that allows the export of electricity. That means the state can enjoy the other benefits of wind energy development—jobs and economic development.
Here is an article from the Omaha World Herald that explains the benefits.
By Chris Madison, www.awea.org/blog/
Midlands Voices: Landmark wind power law to grow Nebraska economy
The writer, of Omaha, is a Nebraska state senator representing District 13.
This past week, Nebraska’s Legislature enacted Legislative Bill 1048, which aims to revive our state’s economy and create jobs by opening up export markets for Nebraska’s wind power potential. (Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill into law on Monday.)
As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, I am proud of my involvement in the collaboration among private and public sector entities in developing this landmark legislation. This legislation removes several unique barriers to wind development and signals to the rest of the world that Nebraska is “open for business.”
The Legislature’s obligation is to provide leadership that allows Nebraska to take full advantage of its natural resources and compete for jobs. The passage of LB 1048 can achieve this. The law creates a framework that lets industry do what it does best: innovate and create careers.
For many Nebraskans, the passage of this legislation seems relevant only to the rural communities in our state, areas where the wind farms will be located. As an elected official from an urban district, I hope that this bill provides significant benefits to our community.
That benefit is the re-invigoration of the metro Omaha area’s manufacturing base. This law, which invites and encourages a new industry in Nebraska, will do just that.
Omaha is blessed with construction, energy and design firms that already serve the wind turbines industry across the country. Opening up Nebraska markets for these industries’ expertise can reap immediate benefits locally. Our electrical workers, sheet metal workers, carpenters, truckers and other trades serve the wind industry regionally and now hopefully can further use their trades to grow the Nebraska economy.
As this country begins moving wind energy jobs from overseas to the Great Plains, more and more wind turbines are manufactured nearer to the great hubs of the wind industry Nebraska being one of these hubs.
Three years ago, only 25 percent of all wind turbines parts were manufactured in the United States. Today, more than 50 percent of the parts are manufactured here. In fact, Behlen Manufacturing, based in Columbus, was just awarded a contract from Vestas Wind Systems the world’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines for 15 different parts for its turbines.
Currently, more than 65 percent of wind towers in the United States are produced domestically. Twenty U.S. facilities manufacture utility-scale turbines, and eight more facilities have been announced. Nebraska already has two wind tower facilities, Katana Summit in Columbus and Northstar Wind Towers in Blair.
Wind turbine blades are large and expensive to transport, so the domestic market tends to develop more quickly. There are currently 13 blade manufacturing facilities in the United States, and three more blade manufacturing facilities have been announced. One of those is TPI Composites Inc. in Grand Island, which will employ more than 200 workers. Overall, approximately 70 percent of all blades used in U.S. wind projects are produced domestically.
Additionally, Nebraska’s transportation industry should see real, immediate growth. The large pieces and constructs which are vital to the wind industry lend themselves beautifully to Omaha due to the importance of the railroad for initial transportation of resources.
Omaha is home to the nation’s two most prominent rail companies, with Burlington Northern and Union Pacific being cornerstones of our community. Many trucking businesses in our state will be called on to transport the raw materials to the manufacturer and deliver the finished blade and tower pieces to their final destinations. The opportunities for immediate economic growth for Nebraska will come full circle.
Education of these manufacturers, engineers and drivers will be handled by the area’s community colleges and universities. These vital institutions will meet the challenge of training the future work force with new-energy-economy skills.
With greater development of wind in Nebraska, the supply chain businesses will grow. More importantly for our citizens, both urban and rural Nebraskans will be the beneficiaries.
LB 1048 is an innovative public policy that supports a stable and growing Nebraska, even in tough times. Opening up export markets for Nebraska’s wind resources will serve the residents and businesses in this state while protecting our low energy costs.
Nebraska should welcome this vibrant new industry into our borders.
By Tanya Cook, www.omaha.com