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Wind power in Nebraska: A new era? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 20:19

Guest Column

By Johnathan Hladik

of The Center for Rural Affairs

 

After a decade of wasted potential, wind power proponents throughout Nebraska received good news last week. The American Wind Energy Association’s First Quarter Market Report shows that Nebraska ranks fifth among all states in capacity additions for 2011, and second in industry growth.

In fact, our wind power capacity has grown by 38% during the first quarter alone. Is 2011 the year we turn the corner and take advantage of the resources at our disposal?

Let’s consider the numbers.

This capacity increase is the result of one new development, the Laredo Ridge Wind Farm. By all accounts, the project is a success. Laredo Ridge has been given a high performance rating during the first two months of operation, a result of producing energy at a level that far exceeds expectations. The 54 turbines employed produce 81 MW of electricity per year.

Closer scrutiny shows these numbers, while notable in their own right, are more remarkable for what they don’t show: Nebraska has a long way to go. While ranking second in growth due to a 38% capacity increase is impressive, needing only one 81 MW project to get there isn’t.

As a state, Nebraska’s wind resources rank fourth in the U.S., enough to provide our current electricity needs 120 times over. Despite this ranking, wind is being used to meet less than 1% of our energy needs. Laredo Ridge is a step in the right direction, many more projects of this caliber are needed before we reach our potential.

JOHNATHAN HLADIK works as an Energy Policy Advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs, promoting and developing a clean energy policy that creates economic opportunity for our rural communities.