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Wind : North
Future of wind power left on hold
Powering society with renewable fuels? Could it be the driving electrical force of Nebraska? You might occasionally see massive sharp blades as you drive up and down I-80 west or east. But what really lies in the future of wind energy?
Recently, there's been a lot of hoopla about this wind farm in Broken Bow and the economic impact it'll have on the state. Now that the federal government may not extend an important tax credit, the vision for wind power could change.
"Our board has set a voluntary goal to have 10% of our energy come from renewables by 2020," said NPPD President Pat Pope.
Pope says wind generation isn't promising. For many years Nebraska has focused on clean coal power plants and natural gases as major energy resources.
"Wind just like solar is a variable resource. Here in Nebraska the wind sometimes blows a lot and we can get some days when the wind is not blowing at all," said Pope.
Nebraska has eleven wind farm operations.
Broken Bow is the states most recent $145 million clean air development.
This facility has 50 wind turbines each turbine is 80 meters high just like the one you see behind me and the farm site occupies 14,000 acres of land
Wind experts say it's a track towards a more diversified energy portfolio. But future projects are at stake.
"The whole industry in the U.S. is kind of on hold," said David Rich.
David Rich is the Sustainable Energy manager at NPPD in Columbus.
At a wind conference in Lincoln Nebraska during mid-October, Rich and other energy experts griped about a production tax credit, also known as PTC's set to expire on December 31st.
"We're seeing prices right now being proposed less than three cents a kilowatt hour those projects would be about 5 cents a kilowatt hour without the production tax credit," Rich said.
A climbing national deficit is stalling the process.
"Can the United States afford giving tax credits for this purpose?" said Rich.
The delay has already had significant impact on manufacturing and transportation sectors.
"Katana Summit, a manufacturing facility located in Columbus that makes towers, they've actually announced that if they don't find a buyer they're going to shut down the facility November 1st," said Rich.
PTC's have become a contested issue in this year's presidential race.
And has also provoked local leaders to take action.
Governor Dave Heineman is pushing for the subsidy to be extended.
While Senator Ben Nelson and Kerrey are also on board, Congressman Adrian Smith says the constant debate over specific credits needs to end and he seeks to help simplify the code.
Meanwhile, uncertainty is wafting in the wind.
"There's discussion in lame duck session," Rich said.
But the ball will be in the 2012 elected President's court.
"If PTC's aren't renewed that could impact the cost of future facilities and we'll have to take that into account when we analyze the offers the developers come up with," said Pope.
Current operational facilities at Broken Bow are protected.
There are two pending projects in Northeast Nebraska and Phase 2 of the Broken Bow wind farm and those are riding on that PT credit.
Annually, the U.S. would save billions of tax dollars by letting the PTC's expire.
Also just another interesting fact if Nebraska could get to the point of powering the state by wind, it would take 700 turbines to make it happen.
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