Construction set to begin on Custer County wind farm

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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:00 am

Omaha households will get more of their electricity from wind power, with construction set to begin this month on a new wind farm in Custer County that has been in the works for several years.

Plans to build the Broken Bow II facility near Broken Bow were uncertain in 2012 as developers waited to see whether a federal tax credit would be renewed. The credit was renewed in January 2013, and later in 2013, the Nebraska Public Power District entered negotiations with a new developer following a bankruptcy filing by the original developer.

NPPD said Thursday its board has now approved a 25-year power purchase agreement with the new developer, San Diego-based Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, which will construct and maintain the facility.

The agreement puts NPPD close to its goal of generating 10 percent of its power with new renewable resources by 2020.

David Rich, sustainable energy manager for NPPD, said the new wind project adds to the utility’s diverse mix of power generation. He said already 40 percent of NPPD power comes from carbon-free sources, including wind, hydro and nuclear power.

NPPD will purchase all of the Broken Bow II facility’s 75 megawatts of power and will resell 60 percent to the Omaha Public Power District.

OPPD said it has already surpassed its 10 percent goal and today about 15 percent of its power comes from wind. The agreement will put that figure at about 30 percent, an OPPD spokesman said.

The Broken Bow II facility is expected to be ready for commercial operation in late 2014, NPPD said. Construction on meteorological towers will begin this month, with delivery of 43 General Electric wind turbines scheduled to start in March. The 1.7-megawatt turbines together will provide power equivalent to the needs of 30,000 homes.

Information about the cost of the project was not immediately available. The project is expected to employ about 300 workers during peak construction and will create a handful of permanent jobs.

NPPD said the facility is the eighth it has brought to Nebraska since it helped build the state’s first wind farm near Springview in 1998.

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