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Loup board votes to move forward with wind study

COLUMBUS – Wind energy is within Loup Public Power District’s reach after the board voted Tuesday to move forward with a study by Bluestem Energy Solutions.

The room was packed as board members and candidates, including Richard Aerni, who is seeking the Subdivision 10 seat, and Jim Jakub, who is running in Subdivision 9, listened to what could be the future of Loup’s involvement with wind energy.

Omaha-based Bluestem Energy Solutions asked Loup for a commitment so it can move forward with negotiating land lease agreements and equipment procurement and begin wind studies.

“Bluestem wants to know they will not lose money if for some reason the district decides to back out,” Loup President and CEO Neal Suess said while explaining why Bluestem needed the board’s initial vote Tuesday.

Adam Herink, vice president of Bluestem, believes wind energy will allow Loup to control what’s in the district’s backyard, making the local utility more independent.

Herink wanted board approval so Bluestem can beginning working on figures that determine what Loup would pay for the wind-generated electricity through a 20-year agreement.

“What I’m asking the board to do today is to make a motion to approve the proposed development with Bluestem,” Suess explained to the board. “You will be authorizing me to enter into that agreement, giving Adam (Herink) the ability to go out and start developing the project.”

Suess said Tuesday’s vote did not approve the 20-year contract with Bluestem or authorize the construction of a wind farm.

The board voted to give Bluestem permission to study the surrounding land and wind resources so it can come back with a proposal on a 20-year agreement.

“Right now, Bluestem is just wanting to do all the pre-work to figure out what to charge LPPD in the future with the 20-year agreement,” said Herink. “I plan on coming back to lay it all out for you at the end of fall, beginning of winter. I’m not going to bring you back a number that’s not a savings to the district.”

If a new wind farm is developed, it would likely be erected between Albion and Clarkson along Highway 91.