September 29, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln
Star-Journal: A Nebraska state board on Tuesday
gave Colfax County farmer Danny Kluthe a green light
to build a methane-fueled power plant on his hog farm
and sell the electricity.
The Nebraska Power Review Board, citing an attorney
general's opinion, said it did not have the jurisdiction
to approve or deny Kluthe's application, so he can build
and operate the plant if he meets the certification
requirements set by the Public Utility, Regulatory Policies
The 1978 federal law promotes the development of alternative
energy sources such as wind turbines and methane generation
plants, as a way of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign
Kluthe wants to build an 80-kilowatt plant that would
convert tons of manure produced by about 6,000 hogs
into methane gas, which would then be burned as fuel
for a generator. He would then sell the electricity
to Nebraska Public Power District.
NPPD is backing the project to expand its renewable-energy
portfolio. The Columbus-based utility also wants to
use it as a pilot project to encourage other farmers
to use the technology.
Kluthe, who believes the plant would be the first of
its kind in Nebraska, said the board's decision was
timely considering the current energy climate.
"I think we should all get behind renewable energy,
because it costs a little bit more at first, but then
you have it and then you have energy forever because
it's renewable," he said in a phone interview.
Kluthe ran into problems with his application because
his project conflicted with Nebraska law, which does
not allow independent generators such as Kluthe to build
such plants. However, independent operators are encouraged
by the federal act to build renewable energy projects.
The board asked Attorney General Jon Bruning to look
into the issue and its impact on Nebraska electric utilities.
Board members also wanted to know whether they had the
authority under state law to consider applications such
The attorney general answered that the provisions in
the federal act pre-empted Nebraska law. Tim Texel,
the review board's executive director, said the opinion
basically means that the board does not have jurisdiction
over small power production facilities such as Kluthe's
if they qualify under the federal act.
Texel said farmers or small- business people who want
to build renewable-energy projects that meet federal
requirements don't have to file an application or get
board approval. However, they must show the board they
have qualifying status under the federal act or get
certification from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The board did not act on Kluthe's application at Tuesday's
meeting, which was held in Hastings. Texel said he will
contact Kluthe or his attorney.
"If he shows us he qualifies under federal law,
we are out of the picture and he can proceed with the
project," said Texel.
He said that anyone who builds such projects still
has to meet safety and interconnection requirements
set by their local utilities.
Kluthe said he plans to start work immediately and
hopes to be generating electricity by Christmas.