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States Striving to do Their Part for 20% Wind Goal, but Challenges to Overcome

States Striving to do Their Part for 20% Wind Goal, but Challenges to Overcome

Date: 10/10/2008

Location: NE

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with John Hansen, Nebraska Farmers Union President (MP3 3.4 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:38.

Given the interest Nebraska Farmers Union has taken in developing renewable energy markets for the past several years, President John Hansen says it shouldn't come as much of a shock the group has a big interest in wind energy.

"We helped pioneer the development of ethanol, we've been working on cellulosic ethanol since at least 1990, biodiesel, all of the new opportunities for agriculture to participate in new and profitable renewable energy-based markets. And wind really follows in those footsteps because the folks who own the land also own the wind resources that blow over that land."

Hansen says that means farmers and ranchers have a great new opportunity for an additional source of revenue from a resource base they own and operate. To put the opportunity into perspective, Hansen says to consider the success of Nebraska's ethanol industry. It's the fastest growing ethanol producing state in the nation and now ranks second in total production. But the potential revenue from wind in the state is even greater than that of the impressive ethanol industry.

"Nebraska is rich in wind resources. We are the 6th leading wind state in the nation in terms of capacity. So we have a lot of development potential in our state. And some of the preliminary data from the National Renewable Energy Lab, they looked at a thousand megawatts of wind in Nebraska and what that might mean to the rural economy, and their estimates would indicate that would yield about 1.1-billion dollars in additional revenue for Nebraska and rural Nebraskans."

Unfortunately, in wind energy development, Hansen says Nebraska is currently 22nd with existing projects generating 73-megawatts. He says that means Nebraska has some work to do — and challenges to overcome — to achieve its portion of the national vision of using wind energy to generate 20-percent of the nation's electricity by 2030.

"That would require us, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates, to develop 7,880 megawatts of wind. That's a huge number. And obviously that means a lot of work here at the state level to find the best spots and to get going on all of the transmission issues that are going to be required for us to be able to meet our domestic and internal goals, as well as participating in the national market."

Hansen says agricultural groups have a role to play in getting farmers and ranchers involved. He says Nebraska Farmers Union will certainly continue with its efforts.

"We have been working for a very long time to find ways to move wind energy development forward in our state. Our efforts really started to ramp up in about 1991. So we've worked at lots of different kinds of both small wind and large wind and putting different kinds of incentives and what not in place in order to allow things to move forward."

But Hansen says it will take action at the national level as well. For instance, he notes a one-year extension of the production tax credit was included as part of the financial bailout package. He says that credit is a key ingredient in the development process — and says a longer-term extension is needed. According to Hansen, that not only helps to move things forward, but sends the right signals to manufacturers. He says the current stop and start of the credit breeds uncertainty — placing the U.S. wind industry at a substantial disadvantage with manufacturers overseas.

This information was last updated on October 10, 2008