Lincoln Electric takes a leadership position


That was the reaction of Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler – and just about everyone else in the room – when Lincoln Electric System announced this morning a major new commitment to clean energy. LES, Nebraska’s third largest electric utility, unveiled a new 50 kW solar installation on its new service center, and announced:

* A 25-year agreement with Invenergy for 73 MW of electricity from a new Prairie Breeze II wind farm east of Elgin, Nebraska;

* A 25-year agreement, also with Invenergy, for 100 MW of electricity from a wind farm in north-central Kansas;

* A new 5 MW solar PV facility in west Lincoln, which will be the largest solar facility in Nebraska and one of the largest in the region.

CEO Kevin Wailes said the new renewable resources would be online by 2016, and at that point LES would be generating about 48% of its retail electric load from renewable energy resources, including wind (39%), hydro (8%), landfill gas and solar (1%). That is up from just 12% renewables last year, and will be one of the highest in the USA.

The huge increase also reflects a commitment made last year to a new 100 MW wind farm, a doubling of the utility’s funding for its customer energy efficiency program, a new 6 MW landfill gas facility, and a commitment to offset future projected growth in capacity needed with demand management and renewable resources, all in the last several years.

LES said the low cost of wind meant that the new commitments to clean energy would save LES customers $275 million over the life of the agreements, which include a flat rate per kWh with no escalation over the 25 years.

In her comments, LES Board Chair Marilyn McNabb said the LES board members “have profound agreement on our future direction,” and she credited the hard work and creative thinking of the staff, the commitment of the board, and the strong support from the community in making the decision.

WOW indeed! It was a great day to be in Nebraska. I’m glad to provide details if you are interested. The Nebraska wind farm (Prairie Breeze II) is east of Elgin in northeast Nebraska, and according to the Game & Parks Commission Wind & Wildlife map, is in one of the areas of the state considered to have the lowest likely impact on wildlife species like birds and bats. The new 5 MW solar PV farm will cover 30 acres of what is now cropland, at a site at 75th and West Holdrege just west of Lincoln that will be visible from Interstate 80.

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