Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Feb/Mar 10)
South Dakota reports several wind
developments. Iberdrola Renewables started construction on the Buffalo
Ridge II wind farm in Brookings and Deuel counties; when completed, it
will be the state's largest wind farm. In Hand County, the Titan I
25-megawatt project went online in late November. NextEra Energy,
formerly FPL Energy, started construction in November on a 99-megawatt
wind farm in Day County. The proposed Hyperion Energy Center in Union
County - that will consist of a state-of-the-art greenfield refinery
and a hydrogen-producing IGCC power plant to generate hydrogen, power,
and steam - is anticipated to begin construction this year.
Incentives Pique Interest
of these states are establishing incentives to pique the interests of
potential alternative energy developers. In Iowa, Governor Chet Culver
and the Iowa legislature created the Office of Energy Independence and
the Iowa Power Fund, a $100 million research and development fund that
will be dedicated to the future of renewable energy and reducing the
use of fossil fuels.
Kansas created new financial incentives and
pro-energy policies as well, initiating a new incentive that authorizes
up to $5 million in bond financing for eligible wind and solar projects
in the state. This was one of the key factors in Siemens Energy's
decision last spring to come to Kansas. Additionally, cost savings are
offered to expanding businesses through the elimination of property tax
on new business machinery and equipment, as well as income tax credits,
sales tax exemptions, and training assistance. In spring 2009, the
legislature approved a new incentive, the Economic Revitalization and
Reinvestment Act, for eligible wind and solar equipment manufacturing
projects. The act authorizes bonds that provide financial support and
are repaid from withholding taxes generated from the new job creation.
To qualify, a project must create at least 200 jobs within five years,
pay at least a $32,500 average salary, and generate a minimum capital
investment of $30 million.
Many energy-related incentives and
business climate improvements passed in North Dakota's 2009 legislative
session including a streamlined siting process for pipeline and
transmission infrastructure, property tax reduction for wind towers, a
sales and use tax exemption for wind towers, an income tax credit for
renewable energy devices, as well as tax exemptions for improved oil
extraction and benefits for coal projects.
such as the Cloud County Community College's Wind Energy Technician
program, the Wind Applications Center at Kansas State University, and
the Kansas Wind for Schools program encourage education and training to
nurture and encourage a future work force in this sector.
Although energy is a prime focus of the Plains States' economy,
diversification is still imperative to economic vigor. Nebraska reports
development announcements across the state from a variety of firms,
including Yahoo!; Specialty Protein Producers; Novozymes; InterSystems
Inc.; PayFlex Systems USA; The Buckle; Vireo Resources; and Vantage
Computer database business Structured Solutions of Altadena, Calif.,
opened an operations center in Grand Island, Nebraska, in January. The
deciding factor for this deal was "the educational aspect," says Robert
Yuan, the company's CEO. "We are co-developing a curriculum at the
Grand Island Community College so people can become certified in our
system, and we will create a pool of quality people to choose from."
The firm is one of the first technology companies to locate in the
area. Yuan notes that Nebraska's reputation for following up on their
development programs and dedication to "same message, commitment to
execution" made them "take a chance." So far, "heir response rate and
cycle time is phenomenal. Like any long range strategic plan, we have
to get the right resources in place and be patient."
Nebraska also heralded plans for a data center in La Vista and a
customer care center in Omaha for Internet search engine Yahoo! Scott
Noteboom, director of data center operations, for Yahoo! Inc. notes,
"We are thoughtful about our site locations with the goal of benefiting
the local community, local businesses, Yahoo! business operations, and
our users worldwide. We took many areas into consideration when
choosing the Omaha site to fulfill these goals and maximize our
operational efficiencies, including the Nebraska Advantage incentives
for web portals; low-cost, publicly owned utilities; solid network and
electrical infrastructure; a productive work force."