Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NPPD looks to increase wind-energy program

Posted on Sun, Dec. 11, 2005
NPPD looks to increase wind-energy programAssociated PressGRAND ISLAND, Neb. - 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 Association 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.
John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said it was important to have a partnership with NPPD to develop community-based wind energy projects.
"We now have a new paradigm in Nebraska in wind energy development," he said.