Like all power-generation facilities, wind energy turbines have a lifespan, and at the end of that time, the companies that built them are required to decommission the sites.
There is no minimum requirement for what decommissioning entails under Nebraska law, however, leaving those agreements up to the wind energy providers and landowners who agreed to have turbines erected.
Sen. Bruce Bostelman's bill (LB700), which was debated for three hours Tuesday, suggested baseline decommissioning standards for renewable energy-generation facilities built in the state after Jan. 1, 2020.
Those include requiring companies to remove the concrete, conduits and rebar foundation on which the turbines rest and restore the land to its prior — or better — condition, as well as notify landowners what equipment and materials will remain after decommissioning.
The Brainard senator said a patchwork of local ordinances govern wind turbine decommissioning, but wind energy companies could enact different agreements with different landowners, and potentially leave them with a hefty bill to remove buried foundations.
Backers said the bill would not dissuade companies from investing in wind energy in Nebraska, which is routinely ranked among the top states for the energy source, and they suggested the added costs of decommissioning turbines would be offset by the prices they could fetch in scrapping metal from the facilities.
"It would be a small cost on the life of that facility," Bostelman said.
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Plus, it would ensure farmland remains vibrant and able to support agriculture well into the future, he said.
But opponents to the bill, who were successful in pushing debate beyond the three-hour time limit and dropping it from the agenda, said it was unfairly focused on wind energy.
Omaha Sen. John McCollister, who led the opposition to LB700, said the proposal was "unnecessary, unfair, unworkable and unpractical."
Wind farms already have decommissioning agreements, McCollister said, and Bostelman's bill threatened to derail the development of renewable energy resources in the state.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said the bill ignored decommissioning agreements for pipelines, transmission lines and other infrastructure.
After debate, Bostelman said he wasn't sure if he had the votes needed to bring LB700 back and defeat a filibuster.
"This in no way stops any company from coming into this state and building any facility," he said. Rather, the bill "would have been a good opportunity for this body to do something for the landowner, for the state, and for the soils throughout the state."