Wind Energy Becomes a Driving Force in Area Local Economies

Native northeast Nebraskans know that blowing winds are almost a given; it would seem as if they rarely, if ever, stop. The same wind that stops you in your tracks in February and nearly blows you over in June is now being put to use throughout our region to make electricity. And there are positive signs that the wind energy business is having a big impact on our local economy. 

Nebraska is naturally windy. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the state has the third-highest wind energy potential in the nation. And if you look at wind speed maps that highlight where winds are strongest in our state, it’s hard not to notice that northeast and north-central Nebraska are home to the most powerful, consistent winds.  

It’s no surprise then that there is growing interest in using the area’s wind resources to produce affordable, clean power. First and foremost, wind makes economic sense. The cost of producing electricity from wind has fallen nearly 70 percent in the last ten years, and more businesses are choosing to power their operations with only clean sources. Several companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and build wind farms in northeast Nebraska.

These wind projects create jobs, generate new income opportunities for farmers, and add new tax revenues for counties and school districts. In fact, nearly $15 million is now paid every year to Nebraska farmers leasing part of their land for wind energy use. In addition, wind companies contribute more than $12 million per year in state and local taxes. New local tax revenue is perhaps the most significant economic benefit from wind in northeastern Nebraska.

Black Cow Fat Pig Restaurant owner Michael Behrens can attest to the impact of wind energy workers on his downtown Norfolk business. Over the past 2-3 years, since new wind farm construction projects began in the region, Behrens said wind workers have been loyal to his restaurant. “It has impacted sales,” he said. “Many have told us they like to support the small businesses in the communities they work. In addition, our staff has created many friendships with the wind workers.”

“It has also been good for the hotels, rental properties, bars and grocery stores,” Behrens said. “The wind workers are paid well and are generous with their spending within the local economy.  Prior to the COVID shutdown, we would see consistently $1000 a week spent from the various companies related to the various projects ranging from the land contact agents, escort drivers, turbine repair crews, and construction crews.”

Supporting Behrens’ observation, it’s likely no coincidence that City of Norfolk sales tax receipts have reached record highs over the same 2-3 year period, with spikes in summer months when wind farm construction is at its peak. A recent AWEA report named Nebraska a top-five state in recruiting direct business investment in its wind energy resources. Even post-pandemic, all signs point to the wind industry only continuing to grow.  

New Power Nebraska is a coalition that aims to shine light on the benefits that wind energy generation brings to Nebraska’s communities and rural places.

Wind energy benefits Nebraskans and can help power its dynamic manufacturing and agribusiness economy. Wind farms bring new jobs to rural areas, generate new income opportunities for farmers, and add significant new tax revenue for schools and local governments. Sign-up below to join our community of Nebraskans. 

Join Our Alliance

    Take action in support of renewables and learn about the economic benefits that will follow the growth of wind and solar energy in Nebraska.