Prairie Wind Watchers
Prairie Wind Watchers 

We Are Surrounded!

One of the arguments for expanding wind energy used here in Nebraska is that our state has a lot of wind potential, but it is severely underdeveloped.  While there is truth in that, it does not begin to give the whole picture.  The truth is that there are already a lot of projects on the books, and the wind industry is not ignorant of that.  We have detailed those facts below.  To the general public, the announcement of a new multi-turbine wind facility going up usually comes as a surprise.  We can’t say for a fact, but to us it feels as if the wind industry does not want Nebraskans to know about how many wind developments are in the works.  If the public fully understood what is happening, their willingness to allow questionable developments (like Hallam Wind), make other concessions, and give up tax dollars to wind developers might be undermined.  Then, there is the larger question of, just how many are enough?  Is there any limit in their minds as to what is too much?  That is like asking a greedy billionaire if they have too much money.  To them, there is never enough.           

 

The table below lists (alphabetically) the existing and planned industrial wind facilities in Nebraska (as of this writing, fall 2015).  Sources are listed below.  Details about these facilities are often sketchy due to the secretive nature of wind developer activities.  Further, those sites still in development vary widely in their implementation stage. It should be understood that information about the status of a facility may not be current regardless of how often these sources are updated. It is very possible there are several wind facilities in the planning about which the state government is not aware.  For example, while in the process of writing this, a local newspaper, The Lincoln Journal Star, ran an article announcing yet another three planned facilities in eastern Nebraska (not on the state’s current list, and which we have added).  Therefore, this is informational only and for purposes of getting a general understanding of the where Nebraska is currently (as of 2014-2015) in industrial wind development. 

 

A State of Nebraska website states, “According to the American Wind Energy Association, Nebraska is ranked fourth in wind energy resources in the nation. In 2014, 2.8 billion kilowatt hours were generated by utility–scale wind energy in Nebraska. Nebraska has 473 operational wind turbines with a total capacity of 809.78 megawatts (or 809,780 kilowatts). The average annual output could power about 250,700 homes. The turbines are located on fourteen sites.”  (Note the website indicates it was last updated August 31, 2015.)  This has been the argument heard so many times by the pro-wind establishment.  So as previously stated, Nebraska has great wind potential, but is sadly far behind in development.    So let’s look at what is really going on.

 

Facility Name

Location County

Facility

Status

Current Capacity / Total Expected

 

Comments

Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility

Brown

Active

60 MW    / NA

36 Turbines. Op 2005

Askamit Milligan III Wind Project

Saline

Planned

0 MW      / 75 MW

40 Turbines.

Askamit Milligan I Wind Project

Saline-Fillmore

Planned

0 MW     / 300 MW

150 Turbines.

Askamit Monument Road Facility

Thayer

Planned

0 MW     / 76 MW

40 Turbines.

Bluestem Energy Solutions Project

Seward

Proposed

0 MW      / 2 MW

1 Turbine

Broken Bow I Wind Farm

Custer

Active

80 MW    / NA

50 Turbines. Op 2012

Broken Bow Wind II

Custer

Active

0 MW      / 75 MW

43 Turbines. Op 2014

Burr Ridge Wind Plant

Otoe

Proposed

0 MW      / 80 MW

54 Turbines.

Burt County Wind (C-BED project)

Burt

Proposed

0 MW      / 12 MW

6 Turbines.

Cherry County Wind LLC

Cherry

Proposed

0 MW      / NA

147 Turbines. Op 2020

Conestoga Wind Project

Cass

Proposed

0 MW      / 80 MW

No information

Cottonwood Wind Generation Facility

Custer

Planned

0 MW      / 90 MW

No information

Cottonwood I and II Wind Projects

Webster

Proposed

0 MW      / 365 MW

52 Turbines. Op 2015

Creston Ridge Wind Farm

Platte

In Constr

0 MW      / 7 MW

4 Turbines. Op 2015

Crofton Bluffs Wind Farm (Crofton Hills)

Knox

Active

40 MW    / NA

22 Turbines. Op 2012

Dawson County Wind Project

Dawson

Planned

0 MW      / 100 MW

No information

Eastern Nebraska Wind Farm (C-BED)

Burt

Planned

0 MW      / 12 MW

No information

Elkhorn Ridge Wind Farm

Knox

Active

81 MW    / NA

27 Turbines. Op 2009

Flat Water Wind Farm

Richardson

Active

60 MW    / 75 MW

40 Turbines. Op 2010

Grand Prairie Wind

Holt

In Constr

0 MW      / 400 MW

173 Turbines. Op 2016

Gerry Geisert Farm

Keith

Proposed

0 MW      / 10 MW

No information

Hallam Wind I Project

Lancaster

Proposed

0 MW      / 124 MW

54 Turbines.

Johnson County Wind Farm

Johnson

Planned

0 MW      / 60 MW

37 Turbines.

Jubilee Wind Project

Butler-Saunders

Proposed

0 MW      / 200 MW

112 Turbines.

MEAN Kimball Wind Farm

Kimball

Active

10 MW    / NA

7 Turbines. Op 2002

Laredo Ridge Wind Farm

Boone

Active

80 MW    / NA

54 Turbines. Op 2010

Madison County Wind Project

Madison

Proposed

0 MW      / 100 MW

23 Turbines.

Magnet Wind Farm

Cedar

Proposed

0 MW      / NA

50 Turbines.

North Fork Wind Farm

Wayne

Proposed

0 MW      / 1500 MW

600 Turbines.

Prairie Breeze/Neligh Wind Energy Project

Antelope

Active

200 MW  / NA

118 Turbines. Op 2014

Ogallala Wind Project

Keith

Proposed

0 MW      / 230 MW

No information

Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center

Antelope

In Constr

0 MW      / 74 MW

70 Turbines. Op 2016

Prairie Breeze III Wind Energy Center

Antelope

In Constr

0 MW      / 36 MW

20 Turbines. Op 2016

Rattlesnake Creek Wind

Dixon

Planned

0 MW      / 200 MW

No information

Springview Wind Project

Keya Paha

Active

3 MW      / NA

2 Turbines. Op 2011

Steele Flats (Infinity) Wind Project

Jefferson

Active

75 MW    / NA

44 Turbines. Op 2014

Terry Bundy (LES, Salt Valley)

Lancaster

Active

1.2 MW   / NA

2 Turbines. Op 1999

Thayer County Wind Project

Thayer

Proposed

0 MW      / NA

No information

TPW Petersburg

Boone

Active

40 MW    / NA

27 Turbines. Op 2011

Valley Wind Power

Saunders

Active

1 MW      / NA

1 Turbine. Op 2001

Verdigre Wind Farm

Knox

In Constr

0 MW      / 80 MW

47Turbines. Op 2015

Way Wind Project

Wayne

Planned

0 MW      / 120 MW

48 Turbines.

Webster County Wind Projects

Webster

Proposed

0 MW      / 150 MW

No information

Wildcat Ridge Wind Farm – Geronimo

Banner

Proposed

0 MW      / 2000 MW

1,000 Turbines.

Winside Wind Project

Wayne

Proposed

0 MW      / 120 MW

No information

Winnebago Wind Farm

Res.

Proposed

0 MW      / 20 MW

No information

 

Links and Sources:          

 

http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/Iowa.pdf

http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/map_nebraska.asp#map

http://www.neo.ne.gov/statshtml/89_map.pdf

http://www.neo.ne.gov/statshtml/89.htm

http://www.kansasenergy.org/NE_wind_projects_case 

 

For purposes of this table, ‘Proposed’ means the wind developer has begun the process of obtaining leases and local government approval, whereas ‘Planned’ means the facility has been proposed and has been approved for construction.  There is not a clear understanding of the difference between “Proposed” and “Planned” with most facilities because it is difficult to follow when local governments, usually county boards, give official approval.  Additionally, various studies typically must be completed before construction begins.  Since local governments in Nebraska pretty much rubber stamp all such projects, the difference between proposed and planned is questionable.

 

While a State government website indicates there are currently 473 operational wind facilities, a count of the proposed and planned facilities would mean well over 2,500 new industrial wind turbines located across Nebraska.  (Note that this means someone in Nebraska state government is monitoring this.)  Many of the listed projects have no information about the number of turbines, meaning this could add hundreds more to this total.  Additionally, you can be certain that other projects and expansions to current projects are planned but not publicly known. 

 

Comparatively, according to one web site, Iowa has approximately 3,500 wind turbines. Nebraska’s population is about 1.9 million. Of this 1.9 million, approximately 300,000 or about 16% live in Lancaster County.  There are at least 29 counties in Nebraska that have or have had proposed wind facilities located in them.   When pro-wind politicians complain about how far Nebraska lags behind Iowa, they need to consider that if you add up the number of wind turbines in production, planned, or under construction, there are about the same number as Iowa has, or about one turbine for every 639 Nebraskans.  Ask them just how much energy do we need here and how many turbines will it take to make them happy.  At the rate we are going, Nebraska’s landscape is about to change from a sea of grain to a sea of wind turbines, as far as you can see.

 

Our Local Landscape

 

For our group, fighting to keep northern Gage and all of Lancaster county safe from over-industrialization, we are told by the pro-wind establishment that we are not contributing enough to saving the planet.  They say we must have turbines here too, because there just are not enough turbines in Nebraska.  They are totally oblivious to the fact that Lancaster County is surrounded by wind facilities.  My theory, the more you insist on Lancaster County hosting wind turbines, the more likely you have never stepped far outside of your big city homes to see where wind facilities are, and what they look like.

 

Let’s look at the counties surrounding Lancaster.  Starting to our south, Gage County has the operating Steele Flats facility.  Going clockwise, Saline County has the planned Milligan Wind facilities.  Seward County (nothing yet, go Seward!), Butler County and Saunders County shares the planned Jubilee Project, Cass County has the planned Conestoga Wind Project, Otoe County has the proposed Burr Ridge Wind Plant, and finally, Johnson County has the planned Johnson County Wind Farm.  Given time, it would mean that there are hundreds of wind turbines within 50 or so miles in all directions around Lancaster County.  Our mission statement says it is unnecessary to place industrial wind turbines nearby people’s homes.  That is because there are many other places they could be located away from populated areas.  So what is the urgency to place them in a location like Lancaster County, a county with over 300,000 residents?  Did I mention the role of greed in this project?

 

Nebraskans need to think about what this means.  Do we really want to be wind energy exporters?  That is what they are planning.  Where is the political enthusiasm for solar developments?  What value do we put on the beauty of our landscapes?  By their actions, it appears these pro-wind politicians are driven by ideology, are not at all knowledgeable about our state’s energy sources and needs, and are making important public policy decisions without anything resembling a plan. What is Lancaster County’s energy plan?  What is Gage County’s energy plan? How do we responsibly wean ourselves from coal based energy? Citizens should demand better from their elected leaders.  

 

Is It Cost Effective?

 

It is very self-defeating to spend too much time analyzing the political influences in the wind energy business.  It truly is much more complicated than just pitting environmentalists against the Koch brothers.  What many environmentalists totally ignore is that some very big, greedy, polluting corporations are in the wind turbine business.  If we are going to solve our energy problems for the next century, we are going to have to get past political philosophy and figure out the truth about the comparative safety and cost effectiveness of various energy sources.  

 

The Platte Institute for Economic Research published an article written by Jessica Herrmann explaining their views on the costs of the EPA's clean power plan.  You can read it by following this link.

http://www.platteinstitute.org/research/detail/unworkable-and-unaffordable-the-epas-clean-power-plan-in-nebraska.  

 

Whether or not you agree with all of the conclusions presented in this article, one line of argument is very spot on.  In discussing wind generation, they point out that Nebraska would need to become an energy exporter, saying “Nebraska would need to export much of the required 4,000 megawatts of wind the (EPA’s) target necessitates. State law requires pre-approval of any renewable project greater than 80 megawatts. However, Nebraska currently has significant excess generation, making this approval unlikely. Even if additional generation is approved, Nebraska lacks the transmission infrastructure to make delivery feasible. The Nebraska Power Review Board estimates it would cost the state’s utilities $4 billion to upgrade.  NPPD echoed this figure, stating it would need four 345 kV transmission lines approximately 800 miles long to export wind outside of Nebraska. Although the state has an abundance of high wind resources, so do the surrounding states that would serve as potential customers.  These neighbors will also be required to meet the EPA’s wind goals, diminishing any export opportunities.”  So, to summarize, we don’t need it because we already have excess energy, we have nowhere to sell it, and it isn’t feasible to export unless we spend billions of dollars.  Wouldn’t you think that the public (rate payers and taxpayers) should have some input into the decision to pay for a $4 billion upgrade to build transmission lines to export power?  Who stands to profit from this?

 

            

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