The Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference & Exhibition recently concluded its 12th annual event on October 29-30, 2019 at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel in Lincoln, NE. This year’s conference attracted over 320 attendees, 28 exhibitors, and featured 60 speakers and moderators from the wind and solar industries. Individuals came from across the country to participate in 18 general sessions and workshop presentations that shared the latest information on wind and solar energy development. Those who attended represented a diverse set of stakeholders that included private sector developers, public officials, landowners, environmental interests, wildlife interests, public utilities, as well as the public at large attended.
Conference attendees were welcomed on Tuesday by Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy, who detailed the status and prospect of both wind and solar development in the state. Next, AWEA Senior Vice President of government and public affairs Amy Farrell provided the big-picture view of renewable energy development and Nebraska’s increasingly important role in both wind and solar development. She cited Facebook’s purchase of 200 megawatts of wind energy from the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm in Dixon County, and Hormel Foods’ plan to buy power from a wind farm near Milligan that will be opening next year. The conference continued with discussions on the growing impact of electric vehicles on the grid, and four representatives from Holt county detailed the extremely positive economic benefits that wind energy development has had in their county, including the school funding and additional income for landowners.
Noon luncheon speakers included executives from Nebraska’s three largest public utilities: Lincoln Electric System, Omaha Public Power District, and Nebraska Public Power District. Tuesday afternoon sessions featured planning and zoning for all sizes of solar development; renewable energy education and outreach; the growing role of renewables in the Southwest Power Pool; and how Nebraska renewable energy fits into the Southwest Power Pool. The first day concluded with a policy and legislative update from Nebraska State Senators Tom Brandt, Wendy DeBoer, Myron Dorn, Rick Kolowski, John McCollister, and Dan Quick.
Wednesday morning was kicked off by a session on the state of the national solar industry with HDR Renewable Energy Practice Lead Gretchen Dolson and GenPro Energy Solutions Vice President of Energy Production Molly Brown. Sessions that followed included panels on community-scale renewable energy; the changing economics of battery storage; FERC regulations; and Nebraska stakeholder and community support for wind projects.
The keynote luncheon featured Valmont Utility Group President Aaron Schapper, who discussed his Nebraska-based manufacturing company’s growing involvement in wind and solar energy and how it is an increasingly important component of the company’s revenue. The conference wrapped-up with discussions on repowering and decommissioning wind turbines and research regarding Nebraska’s renewable energy.
Conference Chair John Hansen, commented “Thanks to our “Nebraska Nice” collaborative approach and our “Can Do” attitude, Nebraska continues to make good progress in momentum in renewable energy development.”