Are Renewable Energy Projects Good for Nebraska?
13 Jun 2022
David C. Levy of Baird Holm LLP, has been involved in Nebraska renewable energy projects for decades. When asked how Nebraskans benefit from projects like the K-Junction Solar Facility, he said, “Renewable energy projects provide diversity in the electric supply and renewable energy is some of the cheapest electricity available in the market today. It does not use water and it does not emit pollutants in producing electricity.” David also sees financial benefits for landowners and local communities. “These projects create opportunities for diversifying landowner income and provide significant tax revenue for schools, counties and local taxing entities.”
The University of Nebraska’s recent economic impact study confirmed David’s conclusion. Dr. Eric Thompson found that the K-Junction Solar Facility will bring $130 million to the local economy, provide $27 million to the McCool schools and $43 million in tax revenue to York County. In addition, “the net multiplier impact on other Central Nebraska businesses is $53.8 million during the development period and $2.2 million annually over the life of the project.”
But that’s not the only benefit. In addition to creating jobs and growing the economy, renewable energy projects strengthen the grid and increase the reliability and availability of the electric supply. “While the energy may be sold elsewhere on paper, the actual electrons flow in the immediate area,” said David. For York County residents and businesses, the K-Junction project will add stability to the grid.
David also points out that there is no eminent domain in Nebraska’s renewable energy projects so it’s a reflection of the free market system. “Landowners are free to participate,” he said. “Those who want to lease their land for the project have property rights and should be allowed to make economic use of their land, in balance with the rights of adjacent landowners. The community must balance both.”
“Balance is a good word,” added Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development Corporation. “As a community we must balance our current and future needs to make development and economic decisions that will support our families and our children’s families. Renewable energy projects have the potential to do that and McCool’s children will see the immediate benefits as millions are directed towards the local schools.”
York County’s K-Junction project will be a first for the area, but the concept isn’t new. In Jones, Texas, Engie owns the 200 MW Anson Solar Center, located on 2,200 acres with Microsoft as one of their main buyers. Anheuser-Busch is purchasing solar energy from another Texas project, this one located in Pecos. In fact, there are multiple solar farms in rural Texas that represent several thousands of acres. “This is living proof today that all the energies can work in the same area and be able to commingle and work together and produce energy. We have oil and gas, wind energy and now we have solar energy and they’re all working in the same areas,” said Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster.
Dr. Joshua Rhodes conducted a study to determine the economic impact renewable energy projects have had in rural Texas. He found that “Over their lifetime, the current fleet of utility-scale wind and solar projects in Texas will generate between $4.7 billion and $5.7 billion in new tax revenue to local communities. We estimate that a Texas landowner could expect to collect between $5.2 and $27.7 million in payments over the lifetime of a 100 MW solar farm, depending on length of contract and location in the state.” He added that “residents and community leaders in rural areas indicated that counties with renewable energy projects tend to see them as good neighbors” and that “even residents that do not have wind turbines or solar panels benefit from their contribution to the local economy.”
“Rural Texas communities have demonstrated that renewable energy projects are good for communities. They generate income for landowners, tax revenue and jobs. And, they’re good neighbors,” said Hurley. “York County can benefit in the same ways. It’s time for York County to reap the rewards of our southern neighbors by incorporating renewable energy into our long-term economic development plans.”