Harnessing Nebraska’s wind energy

Wind energy development diversifies our national energy portfolio, and provides meaningful employment and educational opportunities for Nebraskans. We are encouraging the development, ownership and operation of renewable energy facilities for exporting wind energy. This law preserves the benefits of the state’s unique public power system and the rights of private landowners.

Wind energy development is very important to the state of Nebraska, especially rural Nebraska. I recently attended the ribboncutting of Third Planet Windpower facility in Petersburg. This facility is a significant expansion of Nebraska’s wind farm capacity. The partners involved in this project were the first to develop a joint venture between a public power entity and private industry in 2008 when they started construction on the Elkhorn Ridge Wind Facility near Bloomfield.

A new wind farm located in Custer County expects to be completed by November 2012. This $145 million wind project will provide electricity for approximately 25,000 homes and will be powered by 50 wind turbines. It will be capable of generating up to 80 megawatts of electricity.

Nebraska currently ranks third in wind energy potential among the 50 states as rated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Nebraskans are committed to clean energy and energy independence. We are transitioning into a new period of wind energy growth and development with 169 operational wind turbines that have a total capacity of 295 megawatts. The average annual output could power nearly 92,000 homes. Nebraska’s wind power generation is scheduled to reach 458 megawatts by 2012.

Nebraska’s two public power utilities, Nebraska Public Power District and Omaha Public Power District, have set goals to increase their use of renewable energy to 10% by 2020 — a target of 850 megawatts. Of the 458 megawatts of wind power scheduled to be in operation by 2012, NPPD and OPPD will own or purchase 333 megawatts of generation capacity.

These two utilities will be on schedule to achieve 40% of their target for renewable generation with wind power only four years after adopting their voluntary goals. Wind energy has a bright future in Nebraska. The 2011 Nebraska Energy Plan calls for continuing to build the state’s wind energy through public – private partnerships.

Nebraska participates in the Wind for Schools Program whose purpose is to raise awareness in rural America about the benefits of wind energy, while simultaneously developing a wind energy knowledge base to educate future leaders of our communities about the importance of renewable energy. The Nebraska Energy Office has partnered with Nebraska utilities and other sponsors to help 11 Nebraska schools generate and use their own wind energy. Once operational, the school integrates the turbine into science and other class activities to provide a "hands on" approach to teaching and learning.

All of this reflects Nebraska’s commitment to a diversified energy portfolio and rural economic development. In the coming years, we will continue to evaluate options to further expand renewable energy developments and export opportunities in Nebraska.

By Gov. Dave Heineman, www.mccookgazette.com/