Nebraska is taking a big step forward in reducing its dependence on non-renewable energy and erasing our carbon footprint. OPPD customers will soon be served by a 120-turbine wind farm just west of Norfolk.
It should have long-term benefits for energy users. Early settlers found wind to be an abundant energy source. Now, OPPD is taking a step back in time for our energy future.
At a public hearing Thursday, the utility entered into an agreement with Invenergy Wind Development LLC, creating the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.
Dave Corbin says it's about time. "States like California and even Iowa where they have them clear across the state, that means the wind is always blowing and it's more likely to be what we want."
The farm will cover about 60 square miles. Invenergy will foot the $360 million bill.
"There's available transmission in the area, got a great wind resource and now we have a buyer in OPPD, so the time is right to bring the project together," said Invenergy Vice President of Development Mick Baird.
The new wind farm will not decrease electric bills for OPPD customers, but the utility and provider entered into a 25-year agreement with a locked in rate, so there shouldn't be rate increases.
"Because of the increased competition that we've seen, the prices on wind have been coming down and so that in combination with these production tax credits allowed us to do this," said OPPD's Dean Mueller.
The Prairie Breeze Wind Farm will provide power for about 60,000 customers and double OPPD's renewable energy use.
Corbin says it may even create a new identity for Nebraska. "When we used to pump our water with those old windmills, they became this symbol. I think the modern turbine is the next symbol."
The 12,000-acre wind farm will be the largest in Nebraska. Construction is due to run from May of this year through January 2014. That will create 300 construction jobs for completion of the project and a dozen full-time site operators.