Will Nebraska be part of the wind harvest nationwide?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wind-generated electricity is becoming more and more competitive with other forms of power and has the potential to create millions of dollars worth of jobs and economic activity throughout Nebraska, a representative of a rural advocacy group told the Gazette on Friday.

Wind has the potential for creating 14,000 jobs in 11 Nebraska Public Power Districts, or about 1,200 jobs and $1.4 million in local tax revenues and lease income for landowners, John Crabtree, media director for the Center for Rural Affairs said.

"I honestly can't think of any economic activity for each district that has potential of 1,200 jobs," Crabtree said.

Yes, NPPD's coal-fired power plants also create jobs, but they happen in only a handful of communities, not spread out over the state in as many as 100 communities, the way wind power would be.

There's not really a question over whether wind generation will be built, he said.

"We are going to build wind turbines, and a lot of them, so the only question is, does Nebraska want to be part of it," Crabtree said.

The only problem, he said, is Nebraska is not getting the leadership it needs to get on board.

Nebraska has approximately 337 megawatts in wind-generated power; he said, while Iowa next door has about 4,000 megawatts, he said.

Yes, coal, nuclear and hydro power will continue to provide the bulk of Nebraska's electricity, but retrofitting Gerald Gentleman Station to meet new environmental standards will cost as much as $1.5 billion, he said.

And, while NPPD, as a public utility, is not able to use federal production tax credits, it can still buy power from private firms that can.

No, not many of us are willing or able to make our own private environmental point when paying our utility bills, but the state needs to be better prepared to take advantage of wind generation opportunities when they arise.

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