September 17, 2014

Incentives to develop wind energy moves forward in legislature (AUDIO)

Tax breaks meant to lure a Kansas company to build a wind farm in northeast Nebraska have advanced in the legislature.

The incentives included in LB 104, sponsored by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, would refund the sales tax paid on inputs used to build wind farms.

Specifically, the bill would provide a total of $16 million in tax breaks to Trade Winds of Lenexa, Kansas. Trade Winds plans to build a wind farm in Dixon County capable of generating 200 megawatts of electricity which would be exported to other states.

Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion calls the bill’s approach piecemeal.

“We need the development of renewable resources, but we need to approach it in a very thoughtful, constructive, planned out way,” Smith tells colleagues during floor debate.

Yet, Sen. Steve Lathrop, the sponsor, tells rural colleagues this will benefit them.

“This is an opportunity to provide economic development, not in Sarpy County, not in Douglas County, not in Lancaster County, but out in your part of the world,” Lathrop says.

Lathrop says Nebraska has great capacity for wind energy, but lags behind in development.

The wind farm planned for the northeast part of the state would create up to 300 construction jobs with 20-to-25 permanent jobs. It is a 40-year project expected to pay $10,000 to $15,000 per tower to farmers in leases and between $700,000 and $800,000 in tax revenue for Dixon County.

Lathrop’s bill competed with another measure that would have required local investment to provide tax breaks.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]