Senators seek to capitalize on Nebraska wind energy


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A group of Nebraska senators on Friday announced proposals aimed at boosting the state's wind energy production by offering tax incentives and reducing regulations for developers.

The announcement follows a report prepared for the Nebraska Power Review Board that estimated the state could generate at least 2,000 more megawatts of renewable energy under the existing transmission system. The American Wind Energy Association ranks Nebraska fourth in the nation for wind energy resources, but the state still lags in the nationwide market.

"Nebraska has the wind resources to meet our needs, and we need to capitalize on what's left over from that by exporting to other states," Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha said at a news conference Friday morning.

Nordquist unveiled a bill that would create a production tax credit for renewable energy facilities, replacing a federal tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour that expired in December. Oklahoma and Iowa offer similar credits. The bill offers 1.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity.

The measure would draw developers to rural communities and could help to relieve the property tax burden in small communities, Nordquist said.

Sen. Ken Haar, of Malcolm, announced a measure to remove some regulations on construction of renewable energy facilities, including a requirement that developers demonstrate a facility won't create a liability for public power utilities.

"We export no wind, in fact, we import some wind energy at this point," Haar said.

Nordquist said the proposals aim to eliminate barriers that he says are keeping Nebraska from achieving its potential when it comes to wind energy.

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis also announced a bill that would extend the tax evaluation policy that applies to wind energy to other renewable energy sources, such as solar, biomass or landfill.

Sen. Ken Schilz, of Ogallala, said will work on coming up with a comprehensive energy plan for the state. He plans to introduce a bill that would require the Nebraska Energy Office to prepare a comprehensive, forward-looking energy plan for Nebraska by the end of 2015 that would be updated every two years.

Schilz pointed to a proposed wind farm in Chugwater, Wyoming, that would supply energy to homes in Los Angeles as an example of how Nebraska should market its resources.

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