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Another meeting slated for wind farm

BRAINARD – NextEra Energy Resources reported a large turnout at its March 18 meeting for landowners.

The company invited landowners to the informational meeting, which was an early step in NextEra’s wind turbine project planned for parts of Butler and Saunders counties.

“People had all kinds of questions. Most of them were interested in location,” said Project Director Lisa Sullivan, for the Florida-based company.

“The intent of the meeting was to get out in the community for a relationship with NextEra,” Sullivan said. “We’re unlike some other wind companies. We’re looking at a 50-year relationship with the community.”

Sullivan said NextEra will reveal the exact location of the wind turbines once it secures enough landowner agreements. She said a few left their contact information at the meeting, but she wasn’t sure how many.

Landowners and visitors at the meeting were able to view a map without road markings or the actual names of towns. NextEra is planning a windproject for 33,000 acres.

Bruce Bostelman attended the meeting and said the map looked like a jigsaw puzzle.

His best guess is the project area runs from Bruno to Loma, then west to the landfill in Butler County and east four or five miles into Saunders County.

Bostelman said people should be educated on wind turbines and has organized a landowners meeting March 26 at East Butler High School. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Sullivan said the March 18 meeting was successful and people were mainly concerned with the environment.

“There was an environmental expert at the meeting. We work closely with fish and wildlife, and game and parks,” Sullivan said.

Bostelman said he asked about the environmental impact concerning eagles and was told by one NextEra representative, the setback was three to four miles, but another one told him it was 500 feet.

Wind energy was responsible for the fatalities of 440,000 birds in 2009 and 573,000 in 2012, according to the American Bird Conservatory.

The federal government does allow for bird fatalities near wind energy projects, however, Bostelman said the plan doesn’t include migratory birds, such as the pelicans that migrate from Branched Oak Lake State Recreation Area.

Bostelman said he sees a lot of problems with the proposed wind turbines, including three young families who have placed a hold on the construction of their homes because of the project.

He also said there are several wind projects around the state waiting to be constructed because there aren’t agreements with public power sources.

Wind turbines in Butler and Saunders counties cannot operate unless there is an agreement with a public power company.

“Ultimately yes, we must have power and we don’t yet,” Sullivan said.

NextEra is operating wind turbines in Johnson and Gage counties, and has 52 turbines planned for Cottonwood Wind project in Webster County near Blue Hill. Cottonwood does not yet have a power agreement.

At least nine wind projects slated for Nebraska do not have power agreements. One is under construction in Vedigre with no power agreement.

The Springview turbines in north central Nebraska were put into full power operation in 1999, and decommissioned because of significant maintenance issues due to age and irreplaceable worn parts. Those turbines haven’t been active since August of 2007.

Sullivan said NextEra has a productive working relationship with General Electric, who builds turbines for the company. She said NextEra has replaced old turbine technology before.