Sunday, March 11, 2007

Company plans to build Nebraska's largest wind farm

Company plans to build Nebraska's largest wind farm

A company specializing in renewable energy plans to build a wind farm in northcentral Nebraska that would be the state's largest wind power operation.

Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy LLC, confirmed Friday that a 100 megawatt wind farm is in the works for Holt County. The project would cost $160 million.

One megawatt of electricity is roughly enough to power 250 to 300 American homes for a day. The planned wind farm would generate enough power for 40,000 Nebraskans, according to Midwest.

The Chicago-based company is affiliated with Edison Mission Group Inc., a subsidiary of power company Edison International. Eighteen wind farms are in operation or are under construction by the partnership.

Donahue said Midwest has formed Holt County Wind LLC to oversee the Nebraska wind farm. It hopes to sell the power to Nebraska Public Power District.

"NPPD has had some high-level discussion with them regarding this project," spokeswoman Beth Boesch said Friday.

She said officials there have received little information on the wind farm so far, and it was too early to comment on the proposal.

NPPD already owns and operates a 60-megawatt wind farm south of Ainsworth and two turbines near Springview.

The 36-turbine Ainsworth complex, which opened in 2005, is the state's largest wind farm. It produces enough electricity annually to provide power to 19,000 homes.

NPPD provides power to about 1 million Nebraskans through retail service and wholesale service to other power companies.

The power district gets about 1 percent of its power from renewable energy. David Rich, NPPD's renewable energy manager, said recently that the goal is to generate about 5 percent of its power from renewable energy.

"This proposal offers an opportunity for a public-private partnership to achieve NPPD's objectives for developing more renewable energy," Donahue said Friday in a news release.

The site for the planned operation is 11,500 acres near Atkinson that was owned by members of the Keating family. The family confirmed the plans.

Donahue said Holt County Wind has already bought the land and secured the necessary permits. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

Midwest said eight full-time jobs would be created to be operate the wind farm.

Nebraska ranks sixth in the nation in terms of the potential for wind energy, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

But there aren't nearly as many wind turbines in Nebraska, which is the nation's only all public-power state, as in neighboring states. Nearby states, including Iowa and Minnesota, are both among the top five wind energy-producing states, with California producing the most.