Broken Bow wind farm dedication set for Tuesday

Source: By ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star • Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It’s impossible to miss the new Broken Bow wind farm.

“You can see them from about every direction. It’s very neat,” said Melissa Garcia, president of the Custer Economic Development Corp.

On Tuesday, Garcia and other Broken Bow officials, along with Gov. Dave Heineman and utility representatives are to dedicate the 80-megawatt wind farm about three miles northeast of the central Nebraska town of 3,500.

The wind farm has 50 turbines scattered over 14,000 acres. Each turbine tower is about 262 feet high, topped with a 1.6-megawatt power plant.

Total generation capacity is 80 megawatts, enough to meet the energy needs of about 25,000 homes.

The $145 million project will be operated by Edison Mission Energy, a subsidiary of Edison International, headquartered in Rosemead, Calif. It also has wind projects near Bloomfield in Knox County and near Petersburg in Boone County.

The Nebraska Public Power District has purchased the entire output of the newest wind farm under a 20-year agreement and signed separate sales agreements with Omaha Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System and the city of Grand Island.

LES Administrator and CEO Kevin Wailes said the utility decided to buy 10 megawatts because it fits in with its goal of investing in sustainable renewable energy resources.

“This is a component toward that goal,” Wailes said, adding that LES wants to diversify its energy portfolio as it faces possible environmental and regulatory issues. The additional 10 megawatts brings LES’ total wind-generation capacity to 27 megawatts.

Construction of the wind farm took about a year, and during its peak, the project employed about 100 people. Edison Mission Energy estimates it contributed about $5.6 million to the state in sales tax revenues.

The wind farm had a big effect on local businesses, Garcia said.

“When you look at comparable communities in our area from April 2011 to April 2012, we had $2 million more in taxable sales,” she said.

The wind project will provide average annual tax revenues of about $600,000 during the next 25 years in property and state income taxes, the company said in a news release.

In addition, the Broken Bow wind farm will generate an average of $540,000 per year in lease royalties to local landowners and seven permanent jobs.

The Broken Bow project grew out of a meteorological study done by NPPD, said Dave Rich, the utility’s renewable energy development manager.

“The Broken Bow wind farm is one of the sites identified through consultants,” he said. “We were involved in this one from Day 1.”

Nebraska ranks third in the nation for wind energy potential and 25th in installed wind energy capacity, with 337 megawatts, according to the Nebraska Energy Office.

Rich said the Broken Bow wind farm and others like it have given rural areas a much-needed economic boost.

“Some of these small towns haven’t had a lot of opportunity other than an ethanol plant,” he said. “These provide good, steady jobs and tax revenue for the counties and school districts.”