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ICON organizes informational meeting on wind energy

South Dakota

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska hosted an afternoon informational meeting on wind energy recently which drew a sizable crowd of 60-plus to listen to those promoting this important resource. A natural occurrence in the windy Sandhills has lately become a marketable source of energy.

"Making significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions while providing reliable and reasonably-priced electricity to meet a growing need will be one of the biggest, and perhaps most expensive challenges the electric industry has ever faced," said John Richards of Nebraska Public Power District while he gave a slide presentation on potential wind development.

Rising fuel costs, a growing demand for electricity and future legislative or regulatory policy are three items that are impacting traditionally low electric rates.

"You currently pay less for electricity in Nebraska for several reasons, but one is because Nebraska is the only totally public power state in America," said Richards. As a public power provider, NPPD's loyalty is to their customers, not stockholders. Because decisions are made at the local level, costs for electric service are kept at the forefront. NPPD wants to ensure their customers have sufficient, reliable energy in the future.

However, several challenges could dramatically raise rates. This is why NPPD is currently looking at getting more involved in the Wind Power industry

The American Wind Energy Association has listed Nebraska as 6th in the top twenty states for wind energy potential, as measured by annual energy potential in the billions of kilowatts. Many land owners at the meeting were interested in what the push for turbine wind generators could mean for them.

"Rancher's are familiar with wind power. We have been watering cattle and livestock with windmills for allot of years," said Arthur County rancher, Bob Rothwell. "It wasn't that long ago that the old house on our ranch was powered by a wind generated battery storage system. I am hoping that the information I get here today will point to a system of energy that will benefit land owners as much as the communities it would power."

Nebraska Farmer's Union president, John Hansen, was also on hand to present an abundance of information on wind projects NEFU and NPPD have worked together on in the past and update on current and future projects. The latest accomplishment of the group was to lead a coalition of organizations in support of the Community Based Energy Development legislation that resulted in the Bloomfield/Crofton Wind Farm.

"Nebraskans worked together to fashion a unique wind development approach that will help our public power state develop our enormous wind resources in the most economically beneficial way, while enhancing the benefits of our unique public power state. This is collaboration at its best," Hansen stated.

Ownership in the facility is structured according to the Nebraska Rural Community Based Energy Development Act with all landowners where wind turbines are being sited offered an ownership option. The act requires that at least 33 percent of the power purchase agreement payments over the 20-year agreement flow to Nebraska residents.

"The locally-owned wind farm model offers Nebraska farmers and landowners the economic structure to deliver another form of competitive, sustainable, renewable energy to Nebraska consumers, without depleting our precious water resources and without using fossil fuels for power generation. This benefits public power, our environment, and our rural communities," he said.

"There have been land owners who have signed away their rights without knowing it until it is too late," said Hansen. He went on issuing a warning on knowing what and who you are dealing with. Everyone needs to be fully aware of the companies' reputation and any contracts should be looked at carefully. There have been horrible consequences recorded because of being too trusting.

There lies the benefit in having the local public power district and state agricultural organizations working together to provide the public with options and answers. It will take many years to work out the bugs of the system but everyone agreed that wind is a valuable resource that has tremendous potential for renewable energy in the future.

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