GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – Using one renewable energy to produce another – a local public power district sees benefits going green. But the prospect of a wind farm brings objections from some near Aurora.
“I’m a concerned citizen from Hamilton County,” one man said, addressing the Southern Public Power District board.
Todd Joyce interrupted harvest.
“I still have dirt on my hands from this morning,” he said, and he spoke in opposition.
Joyce, Duane Katt, and others expressed their concerns.
“They came from Omaha and put the wheels in motion,” Pat Anderson told the board.
She said it would be right outside her front door.
“It affects our way of life, our right to enjoy our property, could affect our health and we were not consulted at all,” she said.
Southern Power leaders say their agreement with Bluestem Energy for four wind turbines south of Aurora goes back five years.
The project was agreed to, but development was delayed. Southern officials said this amendment will increase the capacity, at a better rate.
“So that will be to the benefit of all our customers. This will be made available to any commercial industrial customers in Hamilton County for those that want a renewable energy,” said CEO Neal Niedfeldt.
The customers Niedfeldt has in mind are ethanol plants that can reduce their carbon footprint, and improve their margins.
He said, “With a certain amount of renewable energy used to produce their product, there are markets available to them that give them an economic benefit and we want to assist them in being successful.”
The Hamilton County chair said they have adopted zoning rules, to ensure wind farms are placed appropriately. Rich Nelson and zoning administrator Jeremy Brandt attended the meeting, but did not speak.
Pat Anderson said opposition in growing.
“The people that are against these are starting to step up and find out what’s really going on,” she said.
One member of the Southern board objected to the 28-year contract that Southern Public Power was being asked to approve with Bluestem Energy.
But the majority felt it was an advantage to lock in a price, at a time when some customers want green energy.
Niedfeldt said, “We have a lot of customers that are very sensitive to the environment, that will be proud that we have gone forward with a renewable project like this.”
Pat Anderson says she’s not defeated but energized.
“I’m still not doing fighting my fight,” she said.
Bluestem has filed an application with Hamilton County, and the planning commission will hold a public hearing October 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the county fairgrounds.
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