Nebraska’s wind energy continues to grow

A newly released report indicates that Nebraska is a top five state in recruiting direct business purchases of wind energy. 

Commercial and industrial companies bought 4,447 megawatts (MW) of U.S. wind capacity last year, setting a new record for annual procurements and bringing total corporate agreements for wind power to 16,857 MW, according to the first Wind Powers American Business report from the American Wind Energy Association.

The report, which was released last week, reveals corporate customers across a variety of industry sectors now purchase 10% of all operating wind capacity in the country. The U.S. wind market is increasingly attractive as businesses strive to meet sustainability targets and improve their bottom lines, with total contracts rising from fewer than 800 MW at the end of 2013 to more than 16,800 MW at the end of 2019.

“Leading businesses are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their operations, reduce costs to their customers and help achieve their sustainability goals,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “These companies are leaders in their industries, making sustainability commitments that are good for business and good for the environment.”

More than 140 companies have purchased U.S. wind energy. Overall, Google is the top corporate wind energy customer in the U.S., with 2,397 MW contracted. Facebook is the second largest purchaser, with 1,459 MW, followed by Walmart, AT&T and Microsoft.

Walmart purchased the most wind energy of any company in 2019, signing contracts for three wind projects totaling 541 MW. AT&T was the second largest corporate buyer of wind for the year, contracting 460 MW from two projects. Facebook followed closely with 440 MW.

“Wind energy is a core component in the mix to meet Walmart’s goal of powering 50% of our operations with renewable sources by 2025,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart Inc. “Over the past two years, Walmart has entered into a number of wind power agreements. These investments represent an important leap forward in our company’s renewable energy journey and reinforce Walmart’s broader mission to advance sustainability across global supply chains.”

The news is also good for Nebraska. It is now fifth in the nation in corporate wind deals behind Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois.

Nebraska and South Dakota both saw a large increase in corporate wind deals in the past two years as wind development projects grew in these states, according to the report.

South Dakota was seventh on the list, immediately behind Iowa, which was sixth for corporate wind deals.

According to New Power Nebraska, the state had 680,200 equivalent Nebraska homes powered by wind in 2019.

There are up to 4,000 direct wind energy jobs in Nebraska. Wind projects contribute $12 million in annual state and local tax payments, according to New Power Nebraska.

Also, Nebraska landowners hosting wind turbines have received annual lease payments of nearly $5 million. Through 2019, Nebraska has benefited from capital investment of $3.9 billion in wind projects.

In 2019, wind energy provided 19.9% of all in-state electricity for Nebraska.

“More and more, corporate customers want clean energy — and clean energy only,” said Tim Gay, a member of the board of directors of the Omaha Public Power District. “We have some of the best wind resources in the world; matching businesses up with clean, affordable Nebraska wind energy is bringing substantial new investment to our state, benefiting both rural and urban Nebraskans.”