Filibusters in the Nebraska Legislature can’t compare with the wind blowing through Boone County fields east of here.
New wind maps prove what many Boone County residents have known for years – the wind really does blow harder and more often in these hills.
Now, with a wind farm being proposed for the Petersburg area, that wind could become another crop to be harvested and put some extra cash in farmers’ pockets.
Jim Jenkins, Nebraska representative for Third Planet Windpower of Bad Axe, Mich., stresses that the company is still in the early phases of negotiations and discussion with regard to “the business structure’ for its proposed investment of up to $170 million in a wind farm east of here.
The development of private wind power in Nebraska, which is a public power state, depends on two things, Jenkins said.
There must be passage of needed legislation by the Legislature so that federal tax credits, not now available to public power companies, can be utilized by private developers. There also must be a successful negotiation of a purchase power agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District.
Third Planet Windpower differs from other wind farm developers because it proposes to sell its wind farm to NPPD when the production tax credits are fully utilized, Jenkins said.
“In other states, we would prefer to own this project for long term . . . . In Nebraska, because it is a public power state, we believe that our plan best fits into the Nebraska public power system if we allow or give NPPD the option to purchase the wind farm after 10 years,’ he said.
Third Planet Windpower differs from other developers, Jenkins said, in that, “early on we went to the Boone County Development Agency, the Boone County Commissioners and the planning commission and disclosed (our plans) 100 percent.’
Jenkins said he suggested to Boone County officials, “that it (the county) needs to come up with a zoning plan for wind farms.’
The county also needs to ensure there is a decommissioning plan in place should a wind farm cease to function, he said.
A high plateau east of Petersburg, along Highway 32, is the target area that brought Third Planet Windpower to Petersburg.
“We are not asking farmers to put any money up,’ Jenkins said. “We are asking them to sign long-term easements.’
The easements offered by Third Planet begin with a 20-year easement and then may go on to add on another 30 years.
Jenkins, who has a consulting company and also ranches near Callaway, and Steve Boyer of Kearney are currently meeting with farmers in the Petersburg area.
“At this point, we are well over 5,000 acres in easements,’ he said. “But nothing (actual construction) will happen for one to two years. . . . We have to have a meteorological tower put up, we have to do a lot of site engineering and there is lead time on the equipment . . .”
Terracon Consulting Engineers & Scientists has been hired by Third Planet to do site reviews, such as soil, water and air, Jenkins said.
Third Planet also must ascertain that the wind turbines are not in the path of communication towers and meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements for local airports.
There has to be access to transmission lines suitable for interjecting the additional energy onto them, Jenkins said.
The turbines take up roughly one-third of an acre per turbine, and require an access road. They vary in size depending on the megawatt per hour.
“In phase one there could be 40 or 50 turbines with possibly adding more later,’ he said.
Payment for the wind farm easement is a two-part process, where farmers receive a payment, depending on their acreage, for signing the easement. When the wind farm is up and running, each farmer signed up will receive an additional payments for the turbines on their property.
Many people have told Jenkins the offer sounds good.
“(Some local people) have said, ‘You know what, you don’t ask me to put money in the deal and you pay me for an easement, you give me a royalty every year, I have no risk other than having a 16-foot diameter turbine on my property,’ ” Jenkins said.
By Twylla Crosby
30 April 2007
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