Published On: Wed, Dec 19th, 2007

Neb. group works to develop wind energy potential

By Barb Burbach
Cedar County News
LINCOLN — A group has been formed to work with state and federal officials to build more wind energy projects in Nebraska.
Two state senators and an agricultural leader announced last week the formation of the Nebraska Wind Working Group to develop the state’s wind energy potential.  The Group is co-chaired by Dist. No. 40 Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, Omaha Sen. Don Preister, and John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers Union; Larry Pearce, Nebraska Energy Office, serves as Vice-Chair.

Financing for the group comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Energy Department’s Wind Powering America initiative.  As a state and federal partnership, the Wind Working Group will have access to NREL’s expertise to help develop Nebraska’s wind resources.
The Nebraska Wind Working Group will be similar to wind working groups already established in other states.  The focus of the group will be to provide education, outreach and information.  The Nebraska Energy Office, which is part of the Governor’s Office, will provide administrative support for the group.
The Wind Working Group will be similar to wind working groups already established in many other states.  The Group will identify and bring together small and large wind stakeholders, conduct public information and outreach on the potential of wind energy, and encourage information sharing among wind energy stakeholders.  The Wind Working Group will work with Nebraska’s unique public power structure to find appropriate ways to move wind energy forward in the state.

The Working Group will use the leadership, commitment, and innovative approaches used to create the state’s successful ethanol industry.
Dierks compares ethanol with wind energy:  “Both are renewable and are in existence, we just have to harvest them.”
President Bush set a national goal of using wind energy for 20 percent of the nation’s electricity demand by 2030.  Nebraska, ranked sixth in the country in wind energy capacity, is a pivotal state in wind energy development in attainment of the national 2030 goal.  The development of Nebraska’s wind energy resource potential could contribute over $7 billion to the state’s economy, particularly in rural areas.

Dierks explained how the rural areas would benefit:  “The wind mills and turbines will be constructed in the rural areas, not in the middle of cities.  The rural landowners who sell or develop their wind rights will benefit and the construction and management of the equipment to harness wind energy will bring jobs,” said Dierks.
“Landowners should be careful about selling wind rights because the rights may be worth more than you get paid,” Dierks said.  “Another concern is out-of-state interests have attempted to buy rights in Nebraska and have the energy produced by the wind diverted out of Nebraska,” he said.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that generating 10 percent of the state’s electricity from wind could contribute $15 million a year to Nebraska’s economy.
“Nebraska is blessed with abundant clean air, clean water and tremendous renewable energy resources such as wind,” Preister said.
Nebraska lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year to encourage wind energy development (LB629) by allowing Nebraska’s public power companies to team up private developers and landowners in building wind farms.
LB629, sponsored by Dierks, proposed the adoption of the Rural Community-Based Energy Development Act (C-BED).
Wind mills and turbines can be found in Nebraska near Springview (2), Lincoln (2), Ainsworth (6), and Kimball (7), said Dierks.  “Although they are able to produce electricity, their level of operation is uncertain,” he said.
Nebraskans interested in wind energy development are encouraged to become involved in the effort.

More information on the Wind Working Group is located at http://www.neo.ne.gov/renew/wind-working-group/wwg.htm.

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