Located in the center of the continental United States, Nebraska’s plains have fertile soils and considerable renewable resources but few fossil energy resources. The state’s climate varies greatly from season to season, with temperatures ranging from a summer high of 118°F to a winter low of minus 47°F. The state is located in the nation’s Tornado Alley, where warm air from the south often meets polar air from the north, and tornadoes and thunderstorms are common in the spring and summer.Although the western half of the state is semiarid, Nebraska is a leading agricultural state. Corn is the most important crop, and the state is one of the nation’s top producers of ethanol. Nebraska’s wide plains have some of the nation’s best wind energy resources, its rivers provide hydropower, and its agriculture offers biomass for electricity generation.
Nebraska is one of the world’s major meatpacking centers. Its energy-intensive food processing industry leads the manufacturing sector.
Nebraska ranks among the top 10 states in energy consumption per person. The industrial sector is the largest end-use energy consumer in the state. Nebraska is one of the world’s major meatpacking centers, and the energy-intensive food processing industry leads the state’s manufacturing sector. Other major energy-intensive industries in the state include chemical manufacturing-particularly of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and fertilizers-and machinery manufacturing and agriculture. Transportation, Nebraska’s second-largest end-use energy-consuming sector, uses about half as much energy as the industrial sector. With the state’s harsh winters and hot summers, per capita energy consumption by Nebraska’s residential sector is among the highest in the nation. More than three-fifths of Nebraska households heat their homes with natural gas, another one-fourth use electricity, and about 8% use liquefied petroleum gas.
Nebraska obtains the majority of its renewable electricity generation from wind power.
Renewable resources fuel about one-ninth of Nebraska’s net electricity generation, and the state has substantial undeveloped renewable potential. Wind is the largest source of Nebraska’s renewable electricity generation. In 2015, Nebraska obtained three-fourths of its renewable generation from wind energy, and the share from wind has been increasing in recent years. About nine-tenths of the state is estimated to have suitable conditions for utility-scale wind-powered electricity generation, and Nebraska is fifth among the states in available land area suitable for commercial-scale wind power.
Hydroelectric facilities produce most of the rest of Nebraska’s renewable electricity generation. Nebraska typically obtains less than 5% of its total net electricity generation from hydroelectric power, with annual generation varying with water availability. Fewer than a dozen of the state’s 2,800 dams have hydroelectric generating facilities. Most dams are earthen embankments, and there is little potential for further utility-scale hydroelectric facilities, although micro-hydroelectric generators that use natural water flows may be feasible. Nebraska also has substantial solar power potential, but solar development has not been economical in most regions. Small areas in the northwest and along the north-central border of the state have moderate geothermal energy potential, and geothermal heating and cooling is being used for buildings.
Nebraska is the nation’s second largest producer of ethanol.
Nebraska is second only to Iowa in the production of corn-based ethanol. Nebraska has 25 active ethanol-producing plants spread across the state, with the highest concentrations in southern Nebraska. Producers in the state use more than 700 million bushels of grain to manufacture more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol per year. Most of the ethanol produced in Nebraska is shipped to other states. Nebraska also has one commercial biodiesel plant in operation, a facility retrofitted to use a variety of feedstocks and produce 50 million gallons annually, and two small biodiesel facilities that have suspended production because of poor economics. Nebraska also has biomass resources from woody biomass, crop residues, manure management, and municipal solid waste.
Nebraska does not have a renewable energy standard. The state does have a number of renewable energy tax credits, as well as interconnection and net metering rules for distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar photovoltaics, landfill gas, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, anaerobic digestion, and small hydroelectric power generation. Net metered connections are limited to 1% of each utility’s average monthly peak demand. Nebraska also has a statewide building energy code.
Coal-fired power plants typically supply about three-fifths of Nebraska’s net electricity generation, and nuclear power contributes about one-fourth. Nebraska’s two nuclear power plants, Fort Calhoun and Cooper, are located along the Missouri River on the state’s eastern border. In October 2016, citing economic factors, the Omaha Public Power District shut down the Fort Calhoun reactor permanently. Fort Calhoun was the smallest nuclear power reactor operating in the U.S. Nebraska gets most of the rest of its net electricity generation from wind, along with small amounts of generation from conventional hydroelectric power, natural gas, biomass, and petroleum.
Nebraska has one active uranium mine. Uranium was discovered in Nebraska in 1980, and operations began at the Crow Butte mine in the state’s northwestern corner in 1991. In 2015, Crow Butte was one of only six operating uranium in-situ-leach mines in the nation. In-situ-leach mining extracts uranium by dissolving the ore with chemical injections and pumping the resulting mixture out of the ground.
Nebraska typically produces more electricity than it consumes. Electricity consumption in the state is fairly evenly divided among the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors. Nebraska has the third highest number of industrial electricity customers of any state. A significant share of the state’s industrial consumption is seasonal demand from farmers for irrigation systems. Slightly more than one-fourth of Nebraska households rely on electricity for their primary heating needs. Nebraska is the only state in which all electricity providers are non-profit organizations-either public power districts, municipal power systems, or rural electric cooperatives. Nebraska’s retail electricity rates are in the lowest third of state rates.
Natural gas production in Nebraska has been declining. With less than a half billion cubic feet of natural gas marketed in 2015 from fewer than 150 producing wells statewide, Nebraska must rely on interstate deliveries to meet most of its natural gas needs. Natural gas produced in the Rocky Mountain region, Texas, and Oklahoma enters Nebraska by pipeline from Wyoming, Kansas, and Colorado. More than nine-tenths of the natural gas entering Nebraska is shipped on to other states. Some of the natural gas received in Nebraska is stored in the state’s one storage field, which has a total capacity of about 35 billion cubic feet.
Nebraska’s leading natural gas-consuming sector is industry. Even though more than three-fifths of Nebraska households use natural gas as their primary fuel for home heating, and the residential sector ranks second in natural gas consumption, the residential sector still uses less than half as much as the industrial sector. The commercial sector uses less natural gas than the residential sector, and less than 5% of natural gas delivered to Nebraska consumers is used for electric power generation.
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