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Grand Island deepens stake in alternative energy
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Grand Island deepens stake in alternative energy

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As power generation facilities across the U.S. continue to invest in cleaner fuel sources, gas, solar, hydro, wind and nuclear energy alternatives are rapidly replacing coal as the staple.

Grand Islanders have long benefited from comparatively low energy costs due in large part to forward-thinking improvements and continued investment in the city’s power generation facilities and alternative energy sources.

Grand Island Utilities Department Director Tim Luchsinger spoke to the Grand Island Rotary Club last week about the city’s long-range plan to diversify its electric energy production.

The centerpiece of the city’s power generation facilities is the coal-fired Platte Generating Station. The city also has gas/fuel oil-powered generation turbines at the 18 megawatt C. W. Burdick Station to provide supplemental power when needed.

The City’s Utilities Department has been increasing its focus on developing renewable energy technologies. At present, the most cost-effective form of renewable energy is wind energy. Since 1998, Grand Island has participated with other of the state’s utilities in wind turbine projects including Ainsworth, Elkhorn Ridge, Loredo Ridge and Broken Bow. Prairie Breeze III near Elgin (35.8 megawatt) and Prairie Hills in Custer County (50 megawatt targeted for 2021) are the largest wind farms.

Nebraska residents need only to see the constant presence of 150-foot-long wind turbine trucks traversing the state to get a grasp of the growth of wind power generation. Luchsinger estimates that wind generation will make up about 25% of Grand Island’s power mix in 2022.

Though the city is investing heavily in wind generation, the Utilities Department has also constructed a small solar power-generating facility on ground located between JBS and the Burlington Northern line that generates about 1 megawatt of power. This experimental enterprise is a testing ground for future potential development of solar power.

Electric consumers have also benefited from the city’s participation in the Southern Power Pool, a consortium of smaller power-generating co-ops, and municipal and regional utilities stretching across the midsection of the U.S. from the Canadian border to the panhandle of Texas.

Since all facilities are connected on the power grid, dynamic efficiencies can be achieved to deliver significant cost savings to members while providing stable, reliable power that is derived from an increasingly diversified number of generating sources. The system is quarterbacked from a centralized office in Arkansas.

Grand Island has taken full advantage of the cheaper power the pool provides at peak times. This helps take the load off the city’s aging coal plant and covers downtime when the plant is idled for scheduled maintenance.

Grand Island’s Utilities Department is set up as a separate enterprise. As such, revenue to fund the utility’s operations come from industrial, commercial, irrigation, rural, and residential customers and, thus, requires no support from the city’s general fund.

We applaud Grand Island’s Utilities Department for its success in holding rates down for consumers and investing in alternative energy technologies.

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