Nebraska’s Exciting Crop of Renewables

Flat Water Wind Farm, Richardson County, Nebraska

There are lots of ways to generate electricity.  Nebraska’s publicly owned utilities are building or investing in an increasing amount of renewable energy. Across the state, windfarms operate in Richardson County, Boone County, Douglas County, and elsewhere.  Solar generators operate in the greater Omaha area. And hydroelectric generators, in and out of our state, contribute an important source of renewable energy to Nebraskans.

Workers install photovoltaic arrays at NPPD's Norfolk Operations Center, Norfolk, Nebraska

Renewable energy isn’t a new crop for Nebraska’s utilities. They have many years of experience tilling that field.

In fact, some Nebraska utilities plan to have renewable energy account for 10% of all the power they provide by 2020. And this is without any state or federal agency telling them to do it. Nebraska’s utilities have made these decisions because wind energy prices have come down, and our state’s publicly owned utilities have made a commitment to their customers to sharpen their focus on renewable energy.

Crofton Hills Wind Farm, near Crofton, Nebraska

But like all good things, there are some limits. Electricity produced by renewable sources like wind or solar is more expensive than electricity produced by coal and nuclear generators.  And renewable sources tend to be intermittent–that is, they can’t operate 24 hours a day. They’re great when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.  But sometimes the wind blows hardest in the middle of the night, when most Nebraskans are asleep and the demand for electricity is relatively low. So there tends to be little need for  electricity generated by wind power plants in the middle of the night.

Some states require utilities to obtain a certain portion of their electricity from renewable resources. Nebraska’s legislature chose a different approach. They are confident in the judgment of our state’s power professionals. State lawmakers know when the costs are competitive and customers need it, Nebraska’s publicly owned electric utilities will add more renewable energy generation.

Nebraska’s utilities have a sensible plan for providing reliable, affordable electricity that respects the environment.

Good things often take a while to grow. Efforts to “green” our electricity supply depend on building a consensus among utilities, customers, property owners, project developers, and elected officials. We all need to pull in the same direction. And, increasingly, we are. That’s good news for all of us.