Wind Turbine Groundbreaking in Kimball Remarks
by Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns
May 9, 2000


It is only fitting the state's first wind energy farm is being built near Kimball. Wind energy could easily become the city's next "boom" industry of the new century. If so, wind-generated electricity would just become the latest in a line of success stories for Kimball.

Looking at Kimball's history, one quickly sees the town's growth and vitality has come from what first appeared to be small steps, much like the wind farm we are dedicating today.

  • In the early 1900s, blacksmith Pat Maginnis built a trough designed to carry water across a ravine. At the time, few believed a water funnel would give birth to Kimball's first export industry.
  • When oil was discovered near Kimball in 1950, few thought the town would earn the nickname "Oil Capital of Nebraska."
  • The 1960s brought Minuteman missile silos and related businesses to the region and earned the town a new title: Missile Center - USA.
Today, MEAN, NMPP Energy and Kimball embark on a journey into the future. Together they are taking steps — much like Pat Maginnis took a hundred years ago — into what we all hope will be Nebraska's energy future: producing an increasing amount of electricity from wind.

The steps taken today are not small. And the financial commitment is a large one. The seven turbines that will generate electricity from this site will cost an estimated $13 million — about half the amount of the state's first ethanol plant. Once completed, the Kimball Energy Farm will nearly triple the number of wind turbines in the state.

The commitment by MEAN and Kimball cannot be underestimated. Both are making an historic effort to create a new value-added industry in the state. Local resources — in this case wind — are being harvested and transformed into something others are willing to buy.

The willingness of Kimball and its leaders to step up to the plate is to be commended. Not only will Kimball be supporting a new local business by using some of the electricity produced, but the city will help in getting that power to other buyers.

NMPP Energy has a record as an innovator, too. It was first ….
  • To incorporate the use of power plants in member communities in MEAN's energy portfolio, saving MEAN money and generating additional income for its members.
  • To develop cost-saving software to assist municipal utilities in their operations.
  • To create a multi-state organization of utilities consisting of over 180 municipalities in eight states that is based in Nebraska.
NMPP Energy has displayed a willingness to serve as an incubator for new ideas in the energy field.

MEAN has long been interested in wind and its potential for power generation. The utility group spearheaded the four-year study of the state's wind resources that has served as a foundation for turbine placement ever since.

MEAN was one of the six utilities that funded the construction of the state's first two wind turbines in Springview, Nebraska. And at the utility's headquarters in Lincoln, the company is using wind-generated power from Lincoln's two turbines.

Some may think I was disappointed when most of the state's electric industry recently said wind energy had little future in the state. They said our electric prices are too low for wind power to be competitive, that wind energy is too costly, that few outside the state will buy the excess renewable energy we produce, and even if they wanted it we could not deliver it to them for technical reasons.

Today, the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska and its members are showing that our wind resources can be developed. The small steps we are taking here today can lead to tomorrow's big successes. Not only is MEAN taking wind development in the state to the next level, but whatever is learned will be shared with other utilities.

In many ways, I see parallels in the development of the state's ethanol industry and its fledgling efforts in wind. More than twenty years ago, many did not see a future for ethanol. Even fewer saw Nebraska becoming a national leader in the production of ethanol. Perseverance by ethanol champions and strong support from the state's corn and grain sorghum growers made ethanol a Nebraska success story. Today, the industry's future has never been brighter, and Congress is very close to approving historic legislation that will triple the demand for ethanol, and that also builds demand for other renewable resources such as wind.

I have no doubt we can do the same thing for wind in Nebraska, but we just need to get started. The steps MEAN and Kimball are taking today will look like giant steps tomorrow. Congratulations to all for making the state's first wind energy farm a reality.
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