Nebraska seeks more wind energy

? The Nebraska Public Power District hopes to increase its use of wind energy as a power source through relationships with community-owned wind farms, an NPPD official says.

The Nebraska Farmers Union, the Center for Rural Affairs and the American Corn Growers Assn. have been working with NPPD to adopt a community-based concept that is used in Minnesota, said Douglas Mollet, NPPD water system-renewable energy manager.

The Minnesota model generates both revenue and electricity while keeping energy dollars local and not polluting the air and water, said Dan Juhl of DanMar & Associates of Pipestone, Minn., a pioneer in the community-based development approach to wind energy.

When wind energy was in its infancy, Juhl said, there were concerns that large corporate developers were draining as much as $650,000 a year out of Minnesota with each new turbine that was built.

But the community-based development strategy allows Minnesotans to generate more than $3.3 million per year in revenue from a wind-turbine operation, according to a government study on wind energy in that state.

The Minnesota model could give Nebraska the push it needs to more fully develop its wind-energy potential.

NPPD this year opened a wind energy farm outside of Ainsworth that contains 36 wind turbines. NPPD also owns two turbines at Springview. Before the Ainsworth farm opened, only about 1 percent of the total power generated in Nebraska came from wind energy.

NPPD has not been able to devote more resources to wind-energy production because, as a public entity, it is not entitled to production tax credits that have been used to spur investment in other states.

Under a community-based plan, local farmers or landowners would form a limited liability corporation and bring outside investors in to build the wind turbines, Juhl said. Those investors would be entitled to a production tax credit and other incentives.

After 10 years, complete ownership of the wind-generating facilities reverts back to the LLC group, Juhl said.

NPPD’s Mollet said his company could purchase power from the community-based wind energy operations.

“It’s just a matter of getting people together to invest in the wind turbines and aggregating them together instead of scattering them across the countryside,” Mollet said.