New opportunities for growth can be difficult to find in a rural community. Bringing in economic development is key to the vitality of small towns, allowing local economies to thrive, and creating jobs in rural areas. Luckily, in Nebraska, we can take advantage of a growing industry that delivers a wide variety of benefits to communities around the state.
Nebraska ranks fourth in the nation in wind energy potential with the ability to generate 465,000 megawatts (MW) through the state’s wind resources. Tapping into these resources not only provides us with clean and renewable energy, it also opens up a wide array of economic development opportunities. Wind projects generate a significant amount of tax revenue for rural counties thanks to Nebraska’s nameplate capacity tax of $3,518 per MW. In 2017, this tax added $3,065,623 in revenue, enabling counties to fund important services without increasing the tax burden on local residents.
On top of tax revenue, wind projects also create new jobs during their construction and once they become operational. In addition, projects offer new income to landowners in the form of land-lease payments, helping farm and ranch families make ends meet while boosting the local economy. These benefits aren’t hypothetical. One community that experienced these benefits firsthand was Petersburg, a small rural community located in northeast Nebraska.
The residents of Petersburg, a town of just over 300, had their first experience with wind development in 2010 when a developer was looking for a site to build an 80 MW project. In 2011, a 40 MW project was considered for the nearby area, and an additional 200 MW project was built in 2014. One thing that was key for the citizens of Petersburg was to not let this economic development opportunity pass them by. Early on, they reached out to project developers, and they made an effort to make employees feel welcomed as part of the community.
After each of these projects was completed and put into service, Petersburg enjoyed the benefits that wind energy can bring to a small town. The new wind projects supported about eight full-time local jobs, and the development of 15 new homes built since the last project was completed. With those new jobs and homes, about the same number of new families moved to the town.
Nebraska, as well as other states in the Midwest and Great Plains, has great potential to generate renewable energy and reap the benefits. To capture that potential, developers and local officials will have to work with community members to determine the best way to build projects. By working together, places like Petersburg can find new economic opportunity that can help build a stronger, more vibrant future for their communities.
To learn more about the experience in Petersburg, watch the video below.