Nebraska Scores Badly Needed Wind Win

There’s another huge wind-power purchase to report, and this one is out of Nebraska, where despite a vast resource provided by Mother Nature, wind power has lagged far behind other Midwestern states (like next door neighbor Iowa).

As we’ve been seeing, this announced plan – by Omaha Public Power District, to buy 400 megawatts of wind power – is being driven by a desire to find cleaner sources of energy and the chance to lock in low prices for years and years.

nebraska wind power

The Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility is one current source for OPPD power (image via Nebraska Public Power District)

“During discussions the board heard that prices for wind energy are the lowest the District has seen and represent a good deal for OPPD customers,” OPPD said in a statement. “Also, that acting now would allow the developer to take advantage of federal production tax credits. The agreement is contingent on the extension of those federal tax credits and on the project winning approval from the Nebraska Power Review Board.”

The move by OPPD was a big bounce-back for wind energy in Nebraska – it came just a few days after Nebraska Public Power District voted not to invest in 200 MW of new capacity in Nebraska, a move that brought howls of protest from renewable energy advocates in the state. And earlier this year, Nebraska missed out on a chance to land a Facebook data – to Iowa – in part because of its scant use of what is indeed a vast wind resource.

As of the end of 2012, Nebraska had a mere 459 MW of installed capacity, less than a tenth of what Iowa has, despite the fact that Nebraska ranks fourth in wind potential while Iowa is down the list a bit at seventh.

The new wind power for OPPD will come from the Grand Prarie Wind Farm, northeast of O’Neill, Neb., with a 20-year power purchase agreement. It’s expected to be operating by late 2015.

“The proposal will increase OPPD’s renewable energy generation capacity to 817 MW of capacity, nearly doubling current amounts, and increasing to 30 percent the amount of retail generation that comes from renewable energy sources,” OPPD said. “The percentage surpasses all of the District’s previous announced corporate goals. It will also help position OPPD as one of the top utilities in the region for percentage of retail sales.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.