Are wind, solar tax credits early enough to make a difference?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If your summer vacation took you through a neighboring state this summer, there's a good chance you encountered a glaring example of one way Nebraska is lagging behind.

It's possible to see working wind turbines in north-central and northeast Nebraska, but you're more likely to see their components being hauled over our highways on the way to somewhere else.

There's a good chance legislation to provide a state tax credit for wind farms and solar projects will pass the Legislature this year, after it failed last year because several supporters were gone for a crucial vote.

The bill would allow companies a 1-cent tax credit per kilowatt-hours generated for the first two years; then it would shrink to 0.6 cents over the next 10 years, after which it would end.

Alternately, wind-energy companies could take a one-time tax credit for 30 percent of construction costs, up to $2 million.

Despite having potential for more wind energy than we could ever use, Nebraska is 26th among the states in wind energy capacity.

Our status as a completely public power state and limited distribution capacity have complicated wind power development here.

Nebraska state officials and congressional delegates are fighting new Clean Power Plan rules which will require states to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they produce by 2030 -- rules that will boost utility bills in states like ours that are largely dependent on coal for electricity.

If the rules hold, it will certainly be in Nebraska's best interest to have more wind power capacity available, but will the new incentives be enough to make a difference?

Public power is dear to the hearts of McCook history buffs, who know favorite son George W. Norris as the Father of Public Power. Some critics suggested he did more for Tennessee Valley Authority hydro power customers than for his own state.

New technology is bound to change the equation in ways planners may not be able to envision.

Old-timers recall the days when wind turbines -- they called them wind chargers in those days -- dotted the rural landscape while farm families depended on the wind to charge the batteries that powered their tube-type radios in the evening.

Some see in home power storage -- touted by electric car company Tesla and others -- as the next big thing.

The price of solar cells is coming down and hydrogen and other technologies are making common off-the-grid living closer to reality.

Nebraskans don't like paying more for electricity than they have to, but they do prize the ability to use natural resources -- such as wind and sunshine -- to make their lives better.

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  • Even little bit of help to get Nebraska caught up with our other states will help the wind and solar engery systems.

    -- Posted by dennis on Tue, Aug 25, 2015, at 3:41 PM
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