Over the past year – after building Nebraska’s largest wind-powered electric generation facility near Ainsworth – the Nebraska Public Power District has received approximately a half dozen proposals from private wind developers interested in building one or more similar- or larger-sized facilities in the state.
Capitalizing on federal tax credits unavailable to public power utilities, the private developers appear to be another alternative as to how Nebraska can take advantage of its position as America’s 6th-ranking state in wind-powered generation potential. Two questions for NPPD, however, have been, “How can public power participate in additional wind-powered generation development, while still protecting electrical rates that are ranked among the ten lowest states in the U.S.?” and “How many wind-powered generation facilities can Nebraska’s existing electrical transmission grid and infrastructure support before it becomes necessary to add or upgrade transmission facilities?”
NPPD’s answer to the first question is to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to all the developers interested in constructing a wind project. By state law, public power districts are charged with providing reliable and dependable energy at the lowest possible cost to customers. NPPD is interested in constructing more wind generation itself, yet the renewable resource has traditionally been a more expensive option for not-for-profit utilities due to the lack of federal and state incentives.
“Private developers can use federal tax incentives to construct the facilities, and we can buy the output – if it is economical for our customers,” said NPPD President and CEO Ron Asche. “We are interested in adding an initial 100 megawatts of wind-powered generation, and incrementally more in the future.”
A request for proposal by NPPD will put the developers on the same competitive playing field and help the utility determine which project or projects will be economically advantageous to customers. The RFP is expected to be issued by mid-July.
As to the question of how many wind-powered generation facilities can be supported on its existing transmission grid, NPPD plans to conduct a “grouped” transmission study of six different areas of the state to make an initial determination of which of those proposed locations are best for connecting new wind powered generation to the electrical grid. The study will look at thermal limits, equipment upgrades required, and if the integrity of the electrical grid could be impacted when intermittent power is injected into the system at each of the proposed interconnection points.
“Conducting the grouped study will determine which of the six areas have adequate transmission line capacity that can support further wind-powered generation development and expedite the overall evaluation process,” said NPPD President and CEO Ron Asche.
Based upon the six different locations, the grouped study will take approximately three months to complete. The areas studied would include all of those locations for which requests from private developers have been made for transmission interconnection to NPPD’s electrical grid.
Once the best interconnection location(s) is determined and the RFP process complete, NPPD can work with the selected private developer(s) to conduct more detailed transmission studies to ensure the infrastructure and the power lines can accommodate the specific requirements of the selected project(s).
Prior to building the Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility, NPPD conducted the necessary transmission studies and determined the existing infrastructure in the Ainsworth area could handle no more than 75 megawatts of wind-powered generation. The 60-megawatt facility generates 32 megawatts for NPPD’s wholesale and retail customers and the remaining output is divided among four other public power utilities via participation agreements. NPPD is investigating the costs associated with building the Ainsworth site out to its full capacity, along with adding an initial 100 megawatts at another location(s) through the request for proposal process with private developers.
“NPPD looks forward to exploring wind-powered generation opportunities with developers, while also constructing more generation ourselves,” said Asche. “We feel a request for proposal process will jump start the wind-powered generation development many want to see in this state, while managing the infrastructure investments needed to incorporate even more wind power into Nebraska’s future generation mix.”
29 May 2007
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