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Western part of Madison County considered for wind energy

April 20, 2018 GMT

MADISON — Once Madison County gets its regulations updated, expect there to be some interest from developers in pursuing wind energy.

On Tuesday, the county board met with Ned Porter, a land agent for Invenergy, which has an office in Neligh.

Porter said his company built Prairie Breeze I, II and III wind farms, primarily in Antelope and Boone counties.

His company also will be constructing the Upstream Wind project north of Neligh, which should be completed and running by the end of the year, Porter said.

There are a total of 188 turbines in the Prairie Breeze projects and there will be 81 turbines in the Upstream project, he said.

Earlier this month, the Madison County board of commissioners voted to establish a six-month moratorium on accepting wind farm applications to allow time to study existing zoning regulations pertaining to wind energy conversion turbines.

Jim Prauner, Madison County board chairman, asked what type of project his company was proposing for the county.

“We don’t know yet,” Porter said. “We just started development.”

He said the area being considered is south of Highway 275, west of Highway 121 and around Highway 32.

It could be years before the company gets to the point of construction — and even that’s not certain, he said.

Madison County has existing wind energy regulations from 2007-08 that are not as stringent as those now in place in many counties.

In addition, the existing regulations don’t address all of the issues that have arisen since wind turbines have become more common in Nebraska. The industry has evolved, with changes involving everything from the height of the towers to the amount of electricity produced.

Heather McWhorter, the zoning administrator for Madison and Pierce counties, said the Madison County Joint Planning Commission will begin reviewing some proposed regulations Thursday evening during its regularly scheduled meeting.

Porter said most turbines are built to operate for 25 years. After that, they can be removed or updated with new generators and technology that could enable them to last another 25 years.

The base, concrete and wiring would remain in place, with the rest updated.

Commissioners also asked if the turbines could still be operating if there were not any more production tax credits, which are gradually being phased out.

“As long as the wind blows, they (turbines) are making money,” Porter said.