OPPD partner’s wind power project will continue utility’s renewable energy growth

Soon, nearly half of the energy the Omaha Public Power District sells will come from renewable sources.

Once a new private wind power project in northeast Nebraska comes online in late 2019, OPPD’s renewable portion of its energy mix would make up 40 percent, OPPD spokeswoman Laura King-Homan confirmed.

That’s up from less than 20 percent as recently as 2016, quite a climb for a renewable energy portfolio that only recently began adopting solar and consists primarily of wind power and methane gas from a landfill.

NextEra Energy Resources breaks ground Friday on the Sholes Wind Energy Center north of Norfolk and just west of Wayne. The company signed a 20-year contract to sell OPPD all 160 megawatts of electricity it produces annually.

Once opened, it would boost OPPD’s amount of wind-generated electricity to 971 megawatts, OPPD says. That’s enough to power about 125,000 homes.

OPPD touted the economic benefits of the project to Wayne and Stanton Counties, which it will straddle — $30 million in property taxes and $40 million in payments to landowners over 30 years, OPPD says.

Utility officials, including OPPD president and CEO Tim Burke, were expected to join NextEra chief executive officer Armando Pimentel, Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore and local officials at the groundbreaking.

The NextEra project is OPPD’s third largest contract for wind power, behind the 400 megawatts the utility buys from Grande Prairie wind farm in Holt County and the 200 megawatts from the Prairie Breeze project in Antelope County.

OPPD is also working with NextEra on building its first community solar power array, a 5-megawatt facility being built near Fort Calhoun.

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