OPPD aims to double its wind energy

Source: By Erin Golden, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Omaha Public Power District is looking to nearly double its wind energy producing power with a new project near Elgin, Neb.

On Thursday, the district’s board will vote on the purchase of 200 megawatts of energy from the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm. The 118-tower wind farm, located in Boone and Antelope counties, is scheduled to open in January 2014 and will produce enough electricity to power 59,000 homes.

OPPD would purchase the power from the company building the farm, the Chicago-based wind development company Invenergy.

The project will be OPPD’s largest ever in wind energy, and will help the district meet a major goal: producing 10 percent of its power with renewable energy projects by 2020. If the deal goes through as planned, OPPD will meet that milestone six years early.

Dean Mueller, OPPD’s division manager for sustainable energy and environmental stewardship, said the district has been looking to expand its wind resources because the industry is headed for a major change.

A federal tax credit for wind projects, which can amount to a close to 40 percent savings for developers, is set to expire at the end of 2012. But Mueller said lawmakers are expected to renew the credit for one last time — and as a result, developers are offering up projects at “bargain basement” prices.

“These are probably as good of proposals as we’ll ever see in the industry,” Mueller said.

OPPD’s wind energy purchase from the project will go through only if the tax credit is extended. If it does, it will be the ninth wind farm generating power for OPPD, bringing the total capacity to 412 megawatts.

The agreement covers a 25-year term, and OPPD can opt to buy the wind farm after 10 years.