Wind turbines, crane parts coming to Broken Bow soon

April 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

KEARNEY — Semitrailer trucks carrying wind turbine and construction crane parts soon will be heading down Interstate 80 and then north to Custer County for construction of Hub Territory’s first wind farm.

  • Nebraska Public Power District Renewable Energy Development Project Manager John O’Connor

    Nebraska Public Power District Renewable Energy Development Project Manager John O’Connor of Lincoln describes wind-power goals and the progress on a new Broken Bow wind farm at Wednesday’s NPPD open house in Kearney. The event’s focus was Nebraska’s future energy mix.

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    Lori Potter, Kearney Hub

    Nebraska Public Power District Renewable Energy Development Project Manager John O’Connor

    Nebraska Public Power District Renewable Energy Development Project Manager John O’Connor of Lincoln describes wind-power goals and the progress on a new Broken Bow wind farm at Wednesday’s NPPD open house in Kearney. The event’s focus was Nebraska’s future energy mix.

    Buy this photo

Their destinations will be construction sites scattered along the hills northeast of Broken Bow where, by June, towers and blades will start rising to catch the wind.

John O’Connor of Lincoln, renewable energy development project manager for Nebraska Public Power District, is educating people about Nebraska’s wind energy development at open houses across the state.

Three projects now under construction — two phases at the Broken Bow wind farm and one at Crofton — must be operational by the end of the year to qualify for federal tax credits that expire Dec. 31.

At Wednesday’s NPPD open house in Kearney, O’Connor said the tax credits have meant the lowest-cost development option in recent years has been for private companies to construct wind farms and utilities to purchase the electricity.

He explained that public utilities don’t qualify for the incentives, so NPPD has identified wind farm sites for which private companies compete to do the construction. Then, NPPD and other utilities purchase the energy generated.

The Broken Bow projects are being developed by Chicago-based Midwest Wind Energy. Phase 1 involves 50 1.6-megawatt turbines for a capacity of 80 megawatts. Phase 2 is planned at 75 megawatts, bringing the total to 155.

The entire wind farm will be owned and managed by Edison Mission Group, a subsidiary of Edison International, and involve a 20-year-power purchase agreement with NPPD.

For the first phase, NPPD will keep 47 of the 80 megawatts acquired under a power purchase agreement. NPPD has agreements with Omaha Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System, the city of Grand Island, and the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, which serves the city of Broken Bow, to purchase the balance.

Tom Swierczewski, project director for Midwest Wind Energy, has said that most of the same players are involved in the second phase.

There could be as many as 100 construction jobs during peak construction in July and perhaps 10 permanent jobs at Broken Bow Wind, he said.

O’Conner said Wednesday that all 50 concrete pads for the first phase are in place, and 85 percent of the access road construction is done. The tower sites start about one mile north and three miles east of Broken Bow and then are spread over 16 square miles, mostly to the north.

Turbine and crane parts will be delivered starting in May, he said. Construction will require eight overhead cranes. Two cranes will be required to assemble the other six. It will take six semitrailer trucks to haul the components of the largest crane.

O’Connor estimated that one-fourth of the first 50 turbines could be up by mid- to late June.

Meanwhile, NPPD will begin work in May on a $5.4 million project to build a nine-mile transmission line as a link between a new wind farm substation owned by Edison Mission Group and NPPD’s existing substation south of Highway 2 near Broken Bow.

O’Connor said a construction schedule for Broken Bow Wind’s second phase is being determined, but the goal is to also have it operational by the Dec. 31 tax incentive deadline.

“The hard part is getting all the transmission built,” he said. “The actual (turbine) construction doesn’t take that long.”

The hard part for wind energy’s future will be determining what development model should be used.

O’Connor referred to a list of Nebraska’s wind energy projects. The first ones were built and owned by the public utilities. The federal tax incentives then made it less costly to purchase wind-produced power from projects built and owned by private companies.

Now that it looks as if the federal government will not extend the tax incentives into 2013, the model for wind power may change. He said projects built by public power districts may again be the lowest-cost option available.

email to:

lori.potter@kearneyhub.com

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