Nebraska Public Power District says it will continue with its goal of generating 10% percent of its energy resources with new renewable energy, primarily wind, by 2020. However, NPPD's board recently rejected a resolution to purchase up to 200 additional megawatts of wind energy by the end of the year. The vote was six votes opposed to the resolution and six in favor of it.
"I do not believe this vote is a referendum on wind," says Pat Pope, NPPD president and CEO. "This is an issue of resource planning. This does not mean that NPPD will not seek power from wind farms in the future. We just will not be pursuing additional wind generation by the end of this year."
At the end of 2014, NPPD will only be 45 megawatts short of reaching its strategic goal the board established in February 2008, Pope says.
"Our existing generation facilities currently can produce more energy than our customers require," Pope explains, "and while we can sell some of our excess energy into the wholesale market, there are limitations and risks associated with that.
"We have to remember, wind does not always blow in Nebraska, and thus we need to keep available the generation facilities that can provide electricity when needed. Until technology provides a means of storing electricity, we cannot rely on wind energy to serve our customers," he adds.
The NPPD action upset at least two organizations.
Johnathan Hladik, senior policy advocate for the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, says the only way to change the direction of NPPD on this issue is if constituents "stand up, hold the (NPPD) board's feet to the fire and urge them to invest in wind energy."
Hladik adds, "The same tired arguments, focusing on cost and (wind) intermittency, lose credibility each day as utilities in bordering states continue to invest in their local economy."
John Hansen of the Nebraska Farmers Union says NPPD's decision means losing out on the opportunity to lock in low-cost wind energy for the next 20 years at historically low prices. NPPD, he says, "has a wide-range of excellent projects available from competent wind developers in different locations across the state to choose from." Many of those projects are able to take advantage of the federal Production Tax Credit for the first 10 year of the year. And that tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, he says.
Hansen, Famers Union president, says since wind energy does not emit any carbon or other emissions and does not use water, it is also a hedge against the cost of future regulations, which reduces both price and risk."
Since 2008, NPPD has brought 433 megawatts of generation into Nebraska for its customers and those of other public power utilities, according to Pope. Including its Ainsworth wind farm, constructed in 2005, NPPD will have 312 megawatts of wind generation on its system by the end of 2014, and based upon current load demands, expects to have a total of 357 megawatts by the end of 2014 with two, new wind farms either under construction or planned. The 75-megawatt Steele Flats Wind Farm near Steele City is expected to be in service this November, and the 75-megawatt Broken Bow II wind farm northeast of Broken Bow is anticipated to be in operation in late 2014, the utility says.