Wind energy leaders focus on growth in Nebraska
LINCOLN — It’s one of the most scrutinized industries in the state and leaders say it could be expanding.
Growth was a central topic of the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Lincoln on Tuesday. American Wind Energy Association Senior VP for Government and Public Affairs Amy Farrell says Nebraska is poised to be a leading force in renewable energy.
“You are in a part of the country that has an excellent wind resource and you also have a strong set of state leaders who understand the value that wind is delivering," Farrell said. "With that public policy as well as the strong wind resource there’s just a huge potential for growth.”
But not all Nebraskans are on board with the idea. Stanton County Commissioners voted to shut the county off to wind developers in 2017, Lancaster County enacted the strictest turbine placement rules in the state in February and State Senator Tom Brewer routinely introduces bills pushing against wind development.
Holt County resident Mike Zakrzewski has wind turbines on his land and says many concerns are misplaced.
“I’ve given dozens of tours to several hundred people and a common theme is, ‘wow, these are much quieter than I was told they were going to be,’” Zakrzewski said.
Zakrzewski was part of a panel presentation on the Grand Prairie Wind Project. Holt County officials told attendees how the project had positively affected the economy, tax climate and schools.
Zakrzewski says the extra income from hosting turbines helps struggling ag producers.
“It makes all the difference in the world," Zakrzewski said. "If this economy lags for another year or two, I think it actually could be a difference maker on if a family is able to continue farming or not.”
Farrell says demand for renewable energy is growing and Nebraska can take advantage of it.
“The renewable generation is gonna take off," Farrell said. "(State leaders should) really see how Nebraska can position itself so it’s built in Nebraska instead of in other places.”