Northeast Nebraska project is latest to harness state's wind

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:00 am

Construction is underway on a wind farm in northeast Nebraska that would host 47 to 50 turbines generating 80 megawatts of wind power by the time it is completed.

Verdigre Land and Wind Partners LLC is leading the project, which is expected to be finished by the end of 2015 or shortly thereafter. The organization is a collaboration between the Verdigre Landowners Association of Verdigre, Neb., and Plymouth, Mich.-based Windlab Developments USA.

The wind farm about 8 miles west of Verdigre, Neb., is one of three wind energy projects under construction in the state, according to the Nebraska Energy Office. The two others are a 118-turbine wind farm near Elgin and a 43-turbine project near Broken Bow.

The projects near Elgin and Broken Bow are expected to begin producing electricity this year.

The 44-turbine Steele Flats wind farm near Steele City went on line in late 2013.

That project has the capacity to produce about 75 megawatts of electricity and, along with the forthcoming Broken Bow project, brings the Nebraska Public Power District near its goal of 10 percent of power generation coming from renewable resources by 2020.

NPPD spokesman Mark Becker said the utility has forecasted it has enough power to meet customers’ needs and would need a board mandate to add any additional wind power to its portfolio.

Without increased demand for electricity, Verdigre developers would be forced to find other buyers.

“We’re looking at any type of industrial client or retail store, preferably someone in Nebraska,” said Matthew Frank, president of the Verdigre Landowners Association.

Frank said the association has 10 members who own land west of Verdigre, Neb., and they’ll be the only ones with turbines on their property. Their wind farm has so far been funded completely by Nebraska investors.

“We hope our model is advantageous to landowners over what a big utility would offer,” Frank said. “It’s a unique project being that the money is trying to be kept in Nebraska and we’re trying to create jobs for local people.”

Officials in Knox County permitted some construction efforts to begin in December so Verdigre Land and Wind Partners could qualify for tax credits.

Frank said he has seen the economic benefits of wind power enjoyed by Petersburg, Neb., about 50 miles south of Verdigre.

Ross Knott, president and CEO of Petersburg State Bank in Petersburg, said each of the 81 turbines in the area surrounding Petersburg averages $8,000 in annual rental income to landowners, Knott said, and those dollars make a “significant” economic impact in a small community.

“You’re seeing 15 permanent jobs that have been created on these projects and we have some of those people living and working in town that weren’t here before,” Knott said.

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