On Monday, Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. in the Lincoln County district courtroom on the third floor of the courthouse, the county commissioners will hold a public hearing to take testimony in support or opposition of proposed changes to zoning regulations of large-scale, commercial and utility-grade wind and solar energy developments.
At least two major developers have taken steps to build wind generators in Lincoln County.
In 2020, the company, Invenergy, negotiated a contract with NCORPE to build generators about 20 miles south of North Platte, but the project has not yet materialized.
NCORPE (Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project) is a taxpayer funded project that covers about 15,000 non-irrigated acres on the sandy soils of southern Lincoln County.
Invenergy has more than 150 wind energy projects in the U.S., plus solar, natural gas and hydrogen projects, according to its website. The company is headquartered in Chicago.
In early September, board members discussed touring the Invenergy wind generators south of Sidney in northern Colorado.
On Aug. 28, a representative of RWE Clean Energy told the county commissioners that their company has lease agreements with 75% of the landowners for wind turbine placements some 7 miles north of U.S. 30 between Brady and Maxwell.
The RWE project would involve about 20,000 acres but the windmills would be scattered around that area to minimize disruptions to pastures or crops.
Each tower uses about a half-acre of land, Outreach Manager Julie Drennen told the commissioners.
RWE also has a wind project north of Broken Bow in Custer County, according to their website. RWE has 30 farms and 2,000 turbines in the U.S., Drennen said. The company is headquartered in Germany.
Drennen asked the board if she could provide information about wind energy in advance of the public hearing, including an economic study of the costs of wind energy if tax credits were not used.
The board agreed to accept information and look at is as they saw fit. That would help them avoid having too much information and not enough time at the hearing, they said.
Drennen said Lincoln County is attractive for wind turbine developers because of its open spaces and prevailing wind speeds of around 20 mph at the height of the turbines. She said the sparse population would allow turbines to be set relatively far apart.
Drennen said RWE’s Lincoln County project, if built, would generate about 200 megawatts.
A project that size would likely require about 50 wind turbines, according to industry standards.
Among the concerns expressed about wind farms are strains on roads during construction, especially on fragile, sandy soils and decommissioning (removal of) the massive generators and their concrete platforms when they become obsolete.
Concerns have also been voiced about noise and “shadow flicker,” and requiring an appropriate set-back distance from homes.
In response to a question from one of the commissioners, Drennen said today’s wind turbines are expected to last 30 years.
Express your opinion
The commissioners are circulating an opinion poll because, as they say, this is a serious topic that deserves full consideration. As part of that consideration, the public is asked to weigh in.
Please lend your thoughts and opinion on this issue by taking a few minutes to complete the poll, which is open now and can be taken at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RRF7JNK.
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