E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Lots of potential power blowing through Nebraska

(Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Robert Pore, Grand Island (Neb.) Independent:

Nebraska is sitting on a huge opportunity for community-based energy development using wind technology that could pump hundreds of million of dollars into economically-depressed state rural communities, said a nationally-recognized pioneer of wind energy Friday in Grand Island.

With Nebraska ranked as the nation's third-leading renewable energy producers in ethanol production, the state also ranks fourth in the nation in wind power potential. But according to Dan Juhl of Pipestone, Minn., Nebraska is way behind compared to surrounding states in developing that energy resource.

Juhl spoke at the 90th annual Nebraska Farmers Union State Convention in Grand Island.

He has been involved in the wind energy industry in the Midwest for more than 25 years. He is the owner of DanMar and Associated, Inc., a family-owned wind energy development company that owns and manages two companies active in the renewable energy business, including a 10.2 megawatt wind farm in Minnesota.

But how successful Nebraska is in developing its wind energy potential will depend on Nebraska Public Power and state lawmakers, Juhl said.

He said a recent poll by Nebraska Public Power indicated that 96 percent public in the state supports developing renewable energy resources, such as wind energy, even if it costs consumers a little more.

"The thing that we really need to put on the table is that if Nebraska Public Power is going to get involved in wind energy they better do it in a fashion that helps rural economic development and not just give huge contracts to big out-of-state corporation," Juhl said.

Citing a 1996 study in Minnesota that looked at wind energy development, he said the study found a $10 million a year difference in the development of 100 megawatt (Mw) wind farm if it's locally-owned verses being owned by an out-of-state corporation.

Under the wind energy policy developed in Minnesota, the state currently produces 425 Mw of wind energy that creates nearly $500 million annually in local economic development, Juhl said.

He said because wind energy development in Minnesota is locally-owned by family farmers on their land and not by an out-of-state corporation, the dollars generated by this renewable resource remains in local communities.

For example, one Minnesota family farm, where Juhl has installed two 750-kilowatt, has an annual electricity production of 4.5 million kilowatt-hours that has the potential of yielding a cash return after its first 10 years of operation of between $110,000 to $130,000 annually.

He said wind energy technology has made tremendous advances during that last 10 years where it is now competitive with conventional energy sources.

What is driving wind as the world's fastest growing energy resource in the world is not only does it provide a clean energy source environmentally, Juhl said, but because of its potential as an economic development tool in rural areas.

"It is just not an environmental thing anymore," he said. "It started as an environmental thing but it has turned into more of an economic development tool for rural Minnesota. Every year we get more farmers and small businesses producing wind as a cash crop and it betters the rural economy because it keeps those energy dollars in our communities."

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said his organization is encouraging the Nebraska Legislature to adopt the Minnesota model of financial incentives for the development of wind energy that includes a state production tax credit so small landowners and family farmers and ranchers can harness the wind as a new source of earned income.

Hansen said part of the challenge to develop the state's wind energy potential is working with Nebraska Public Power to take advantage of this untapped resource.

"We need to do it in a fashion that works to the economic interest of family farmers and ranchers," he said. "A lot of the managers and folks within the public power system obviously want to be able to control all power generation. They don't want to have to buy energy from farmers. They are willing to pay coal companies exorbitant amounts of money for coal in Wyoming, but they are less willing to pay farmers for wind generation in Nebraska."

Hansen said the Farmers Union is asking Nebraska Public Power and state lawmakers to look at the Minnesota model that Juhl is advocating as a way for the state to harness its wind energy potential.

"We need to do it in a fashion where we can actually create the most rural economic benefit," he said.