Expanding Nebraska's Wind Farms
Nebraska's sitting on an untapped gold mine, and it comes in the form of harnessing wind power.
According to the resource assessment from the National Renewable Energy Lab, Nebraska's wind resource could power the state's current electricity needs 120 times over.
A single wind turbine soars over 260 feet into the sky, a sight you can't miss while driving past wind farms, but when it comes to taking full advantage of wind resources some lawmakers say our neighbors are beating us to it.
Senator Ken Haar said, "Not only is Nebraska behind our neighbors, but we're losing ground."
Haar has worked on a number of bills that create an easier route to expanding wind farms.
"LB 1048 is what we call bill for export, and it's the bill that allows private developers to export electricity outside the state of Nebraska … We don't see a lot of that because of transition shortfalls that we have, but it's really a big step forward," said Haar.
At a recent Custer county wind farm dedication, Governor Dave Heineman thanked Edison Mission Energy for their wind developments in Nebraska. "$600 million dollars they've invested in Nebraska," said Heineman.
The Custer County project alone cost $145 million, and it will be operated by Edison Mission Energy. President of EME, Pedro Pizarro said, "We have a great partnership with NPPD they're our customer for all our Nebraska projects, so what that means is we have power purchase agreements with them to sell them the power from our wind projects over a long term." With the uncertainly of coal and oil prices, that agreement means power districts will know the exact cost of wind energy within the time of that contract.
President of NPPD, Pat Pope said 10 percent of NPPD energy will come from renewable energy by 2020, and with the latest Custer County wind farms and a developing Knox County wind farm, Pope says they're nearly halfway to their goal.
The four Edison Mission Energy projects in Nebraska will produce 280 megawatts, that's enough to serve 90,000 homes.
Nebraska's current capacity is 337 megawatts according to the American Wind Energy Association, that's compared to 4,536 generated by Iowa wind farms, 1,410 by Wyoming and about 1,800 in Colorado.
Gov. Heineman said he won't put a limit on the number of wind farm developments, but said "It will take many years to develop it to its fullest potential but you're going to see more and more wind farms in Nebraska."