Midlands Voices: Wind energy bill to boost rural areas – Omaha World

June 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The writer, of Omaha, is a state senator who represents District 12 in the Nebraska Legislature.

The Nebraska Legislature has taken a momentous step forward this session to tap into one of our state’s greatest natural resources — wind energy.

My priority bill, LB 104, will add renewable energy projects, including wind energy projects, to the Nebraska Advantage Act. This legislation will allow our state to take advantage of this untapped potential and realize the significant economic activity that follows investments in renewable energy sources, especially for rural communities.

What does this mean for Nebraska?

It allows Nebraska to compete on a level playing field with surrounding states such as Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota, which already have tax incentives for wind energy projects.

This competitive placement will encourage companies to invest in Nebraska for large-scale wind energy projects. As a concrete example of the impact of this legislation, Dixon County will likely be the site for a $300 million-to-$400 million production facility. Now that our state’s tax policy allows us to compete on a level playing field with other states, our substantial wind resources will make Nebraska a very attractive location for wind energy investment.

Investments in wind energy will create jobs. A typical large-scale wind energy production facility will create hundreds of jobs during its construction phase as well as 10 to 20 permanent jobs for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the facility. These are good-paying jobs that average over $50,000 and will provide our young people with the option to stay in rural Nebraska and raise their families here.

These projects generate economic activity. A typical large-scale wind energy production facility is an investment of several hundred million dollars. Many of these dollars go directly into local Nebraska communities, indirectly spurring other economic growth and jobs for local businesses and workers.

These projects create another source of income for payments to local landowners. Landowners are paid lease payments for allowing the wind turbines to be placed on their property. The typical lease payment for one turbine is $10,000 to $15,000 per year, which can serve as an offset against years when crop yields are less than expected.

Perhaps most importantly, the benefits of this legislation will almost exclusively be reaped by rural Nebraska. Wind turbines are not built in downtown Omaha or Lincoln. They are built outside of our state’s metropolitan areas, and the jobs and economic activity will go directly to rural Nebraska communities.

I’ve been to communities like Petersburg and Broken Bow that have benefited from previous attempts to encourage wind energy development in our state. They have seen the effects of this new economic activity, which has resulted in a rejuvenation of those communities.

I believe that these opportunities need to take place throughout our state, and that is why I made LB 104 my legislative priority this session.

There are many other benefits that these wind energy projects bring to local communities and to Nebraska, including increases in local property tax revenues and low and stable long-term electricity rates.

As an example, a 200-megawatt wind project will pay an annual nameplate capacity tax of approximately $703,600 each year for the life of the project. This revenue will provide a stable new funding source for our cities, counties and schools and will help lessen property tax burdens on local taxpayers.

We only have to look to our neighbor to the east to see the potential of wind energy for our state. Iowa has 13 times as much wind energy development as Nebraska despite our state having much greater wind energy potential.

LB 104 will help Nebraska close this gap and result in wind energy projects being built in rural Nebraska counties. The jobs these projects create will go to rural Nebraskans. The economic activity will benefit rural Nebraskans. The landowner lease payments will go to rural Nebraskans.

We want people to stay in rural Nebraska, move to rural Nebraska and raise their families in rural Nebraska. The passage of LB 104 will help Nebraskans to do just that.

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