Journal Star Editorial: Saline move a step in right direction

Editorial: Saline move a step in right direction

By the Journal Star editorial board

Aug 6, 2016

On Tuesday, the Saline County Board cleared the way for the construction of a wind farm, approving a special permit for the construction of 37 wind turbines that will generate 74 megawatts of power on a farm northeast of Milligan.

Meanwhile, wind power development in Lancaster County has been stifled by restrictive noise limits on the turbines that were designed to, and have been successful in, preventing their placement and use of turbines in the county.

Those restrictions, far more stringent than the levels recommended by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, came as commissioners attempted to mollify acreage owners in the southern part of the county who objected to the wind farm, using the whooshing noise created by the turbine blades as their avenue of attack.

There were, of course, objections to the Saline County project -- the standard litany of complaints about wind farms: the annoyance and possible health impacts of the sound of the blades, decreased property values, despoiling of picturesque views and possible harm to wildlife.

But the Saline commissioners approved the permit for Aksamit Resource Management to build the first of three planned wind farms. The 37 turbines, which will reach 440 feet high, cost $110 million with construction expected to begin after the fall harvest and harvesting of the power likely to start late next year. The company plans to spend another $440 million later to develop another 90-turbine wind farm in Saline County that would generate 300 megawatts and a 40-turbine, 76 megawatt farm in Thayer County.

The first Saline County farm, Aksamit officials say, will generate a combined $700,000 for landowners and local tax revenue, likely a much needed influx of cash for the county.

But building turbines isn’t just a matter of economic development. Rather it is implementing an evolving international energy and environmental strategy aimed addressing climate change by reducing to the point of elimination the use of coal-fired power plants to generate electricity.

Those plants, which generate much of the world’s and Nebraska’s electricity, should be replaced with renewable energy resources that don’t contribute to greenhouse-gas driven global warming and the coming climate crisis that will almost certainly occur if the changes are not made.

With nuclear power largely off the table and few suitable places remaining to develop large-scale hydroelectricity, wind and solar power will be the future energy suppliers -- a future that is coming sooner rather than later and will eventually be set in government policy.

The only question remains is whether that wind power will be generated -- and the economic benefits from it received -- locally or in other county or state. The Lancaster County Board’s restrictions shortsightedly ensure the latter.

Community Meeting

A public informational meeting will be held in Nenzel on May 18 at 6:00pm MT/ 7:00pm CT at the Community Center (north side of Highway 20) to discuss the history of Cherry County Wind, talk about the the Kilgore Project, address concerns, and take questions and comments afterward.