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FPL negotiations continue with Sidney airport

PEETZ – When FPL Energy’s construction company left Peetz last fall, crew members who built the Peetz Table Wind Energy’s Phase I and Phase II west of the town said they expected to be back this spring.

So far, that hasn’t happened. But FPL Energy does intend to add a third phase to the wind farm. The company is still a presence in the area, overseeing and maintaining its existing 267 wind turbines.

Next week, FPL will host an appreciation banquet at Northeastern College for landowners who have current contracts. This is an annual event in all the places FPL Energy has wind farms. Since Peetz Table Wind Energy went online in 2007, this will be the first appreciation dinner for Peetz-area landowners.

In the meantime, planning continues for a third phase of the Peetz Table Wind Energy facility.

Negotiations are taking place between FPL Energy and the Sidney Municipal Airport, said Harold Perkins, board chairman for the airport, which is just across the Nebraska state line.

At issue is the height of the wind towers and the planned wind farm project’s proximity to the Sidney airport flight pattern. The location east of Peetz would place the towers directly in line with the approach to the airport – making it a safety concern.

Perkins said the airport board and FPL Energy continue to negotiate in good faith, working to find an agreement the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will approve.

“No one has officially approached the FAA yet, but we’ve visited with them,” Perkins said. “We’re gathering information so we know what we need to do.”

He added that FPL has been great to work with, noting that safety is everyone’s number one concern.

“The point is, there is nothing concrete at this point,” Perkins said. “We’re trying to do everything as right as we possibly can – with safety in mind.”

The original plan had been for FPL Energy and Invenergy to each build 133 wind towers in the Peetz area last summer. Each company was to provide half the 400 megawatts of power that Xcel Energy needed in order to make a new transmission line to the Pawnee Power Station near Brush cost-effective.

In the fall of 2006, Invenergy LLC had signed leases with landowners at the proposed wind farm site east of Peetz. Some of the Invenergy leases were in line with the Sidney airport.

After concerns were raised about the airport flight pattern, Invenergy sold its project to FPL Energy. FPL announced In March 2007 that it had purchased the Invenergy project, including land leases and the wind towers Invenergy had ordered. Invenergy kept ownership of Spring Canyon Wind Energy, the wind farm it finished east of Peetz in spring 2006.

Since the entire 400 megawatts of electricity that Xcel had contracted for needed to be ready to go online by Dec. 31, this put FPL Energy on an accelerated schedule. It had to build 260-plus towers in the same amount of time it had planned on building 133. There was not time to negotiate anything with the Sidney airport nor the FAA, so FPL leased more land west of Peetz and put up all the 267 turbines in that extended area.

Now, FPL wants to come back and build some towers east of Peetz – as soon as the safety issues can be worked out and the FAA approves.

Carol Barrett, J-A ag editor


14 May 2008