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Legislation Helps State Address Unique Barrier to Wind Development

Legislation Helps State Address Unique Barrier to Wind Development

Date: 10/22/2008

Location: NE

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with John Hansen, Nebraska Farmers Union President (MP3 2.8 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:59.

In total ethanol production the state of Nebraska ranks 2nd in the U.S., but when it comes to the development of wind energy the state ranks 22nd. That doesn't mean there isn't potential. In terms of capacity, the Cornhusker State is 6th in the nation, and Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen says his group wants to see that potential maximized.

But Hansen says there is a unique challenge to that goal in Nebraska. It's the only 100-percent public power state in the country, so he says there's a need to equalize the disparity between wind development projects owned by public utilities and private sector utilities.

"There is a huge difference in the level of federal incentives. The production tax credit for the private sector amounts to 2.1-cents per kilowatt for the first 10 years of qualified facilities. Public power on the other hand ends up having to depend on Congressional funding of existing incentives and that has not happened at near the rate that it needs to to put them on equal footing."

Hansen says legislation moved the state in the right direction.

"The creation of the Community Based Energy Development (CBED) bill, which was passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2007, really has been the kick start that we needed in order to help public power partner with us, Nebraska citizens, in order to move forward with wind energy."

Hansen says it was an effort to maximize the rural economic benefits of wind development by harnessing the incentives to make the state competitive without negatively impacting the structure of public power.

"The CBED model that we brought from Minnesota and worked with the public power community to craft and develop is kind of a hybrid. It brings really the best of both worlds to Nebraska. And so we're really excited about this huge new rural economic development opportunity while we reduce carbon emissions, reduce water usage and help do lots of good things for the environment and the economy all at the same time."

Now, Hansen says the public power system is looking at wind energy as a new tool to use to move forward in a cost effective way.

"We're not only helping diversity our portfolio, which we need to do as we look at our very heavy coal-based generation portfolio right now, which is likely going to get more and more expensive as the price of coal, the price of transportation and the cost of coal emissions that produce carbon emissions continue to go up. So this is a very cost effective thing for us in Nebraska."

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Nebraska has the capacity to produce more than 99-thousand megawatts of wind energy. Existing projects generate 73-megawatts, and projects currently under construction would add an additional 81-megawatts.

This information was last updated on October 22, 2008