Earlier this year, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) released a map of the final route for their R-Project transmission line. The transmission line offers increased capacity and could easily connect new wind farms in the state to the larger electric grid. Then it could be delivered to people in our state and others.
Even though the project would provide reliability benefits and help connect new wind energy in Nebraska, the route will run through the Sandhills. That unique region of the state presents special challenges to NPPD.
NPPD is going through preliminary measures before they acquire easements and begin construction on the R-Project. This initial work will help inform what sort of mitigation activities they might need to use during the construction process.
To avoid harm from siting and construction of the line in the Sandhills, NPPD must exercise caution. Heavy machinery typically used during construction could potentially damage roadways and the local landscape. Flying in equipment to avoid heavy truck traffic may not entirely avoid these impacts either. NPPD also has to consider the impacts on wildlife along the route.
Engaging landowners and local communities along the route now, as well as conservation groups, is key to identifying best practices for constructing the R-Project. Local engagement provides the best opportunity for improving the development process. Sandhills residents can provide solutions that work best for each area and property. Their insight and suggestions can’t be obtained anywhere else.
NPPD has noted the precautions they will use in constructing the line. They must go a step further and identify a way to assure landowners that they will follow through with these measures. NPPD should identify partners and form agreements with them, providing a level of accountability to stakeholders.
By combining these efforts with insight from experts, NPPD can find responsible ways to build new transmission and open new wind energy development in Nebraska.
Feature image: Wind towers located near Broken Bow, Nebraska, the gateway to the Nebraska Sandhills. Phhoto by Wyatt Fraas
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