September 30, 2016
If you are interested in farm- or industrial-scale wind and solar projects, the ninth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference, set for Nov. 7-8 at Lincoln's Cornhusker Marriott Hotel, offers nuts-and-bolts details on these renewable energy sources.
What started out as a wind conference has evolved over the years to include solar as well. "We added solar as a component with wind as solar energy came of age," says John Hansen, conference co-chairman and Nebraska Farmers Union president. "With technological development of improved solar panels and batteries, solar energy has become better and cheaper every year, with steady growth in use by individuals, communities, farmers and ranchers and businesses."
In a pre-conference tour Nov. 6, participants can check out Nebraska's largest solar array, Lincoln Electric System's nearly 5-megawatt SunShare Community solar facility. It has over 15,000 panels near West Holdrege and N.W. 75th streets in Lincoln.
On Nov. 7, sessions will include a series of panel discussions with Nebraska state senators discussing legislative issues surrounding renewable energy, as well as discussions from solar energy enthusiasts and public power utilities.
On Nov. 8, there will be an update on Nebraska Public Power District's R-Line transmission project, a discussion on the economic impact of renewable energy on farms and ranches, and solar energy as an energy source.
"We split the time of the conference sessions, and sometimes take dual tracks between wind and solar energy," Hansen says. "We look at policy, but there are plenty of sessions on the nuts and bolts and resources available for renewable energy project development."
According to Hansen, financial resources, cost-share programs and financing options are of great interest to producers. Numerous sessions, as well as 35 to 40 exhibitors, deal with this issue along with equipment, planning and preparations, and policy development.
"With low commodity prices, we need new sources of farm income, new tax base dollars and more rural jobs," Hansen says. "These renewable energy sources are some of the only things bringing in new dollars to our rural communities and the farm economy."
Gathering stakeholders from all facets of renewable energy development is not always easy, but it offers great dividends to those interested in project development and in moving policy forward in the state, Hansen says.
You can learn more about the upcoming wind and solar conference at nebraskawindandsolarconference.com.
About the Author(s)
Editor, Nebraska Farmer
Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.
His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.
Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.
Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.
He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.
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