WAHOO – The NextEra Energy Resources team said it is still trying to determine whether 33,000 acres in Butler and Saunders counties are suitable for its Jubilee wind energy project.
Jubilee would be designed with about 110 wind turbines.
NextEra Development Manager/Director of the Jubilee Project Lisa Sullivan said NextEra has to establish the area as viable for wind turbines. The company is at least a year or more away from selecting a specific style of turbine, not to mention conducting a litany of studies.
The equipment would be purchased from companies like General Electric for NextEra to install and operate.
“We are the largest owner and operator of wind power in North America and as experienced as anyone in the business today,” NextEra Spokesperson Steve Stengel said. “If you look at 2011, we were installing 1.6 megawatt turbines, and in 2016, we will install turbines as big as two megawatts. The size has evolved over time.”
NextEra originally announced Jubilee construction might begin in 2017. It is now on the radar for 2018 due to other wind projects NextEra has in Nebraska.
Should NextEra move forward on Jubilee, it will need environmental reports from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Stengel said the studies will cover the state’s native birds and wetlands.
Questions continue to surround the Jubilee project, and the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group that opposes the project, has been holding meetings for landowners in the potentially targeted area.
The group’s leaders say landowners may have misinformation about Jubilee. Group members have also reported landowners are repeatedly contacted by NextEra, even if they tell them they aren’t interested in a contract for their land.
Sullivan said NextEra’s lead agent is working with landowners.
“When someone tells us they aren’t interested, we move on. If there is a specific individual that says differently, we would like to know who that is,” she said.
As far as NextEra’s responsibilities regarding the environment, noise, shadow flicker and other factors, the company’s packet explains the process.
Sullivan said 95 percent of the packet was compiled by a third party.
“That’s really important,” she said. She added the internet is not a reliable source.
Stengel said NextEra tests shadow flicker and noise through modeling on a software program, which calculates the impact of shadow flicker through a simulation of the sun’s path in one year.
It’s a widely used method to measure flicker, Stengel said.
“Typically, it is an issue at sunup and sundown,” he stated.
Shrubberies and trees are two things landowners can use to combat flicker.
Wind turbines don’t contain hazardous materials, and they rarely fail, Stengel said.
There are roughly 60 to 100 gallons of fluid in a turbine. Stengel likens leaks to that of a car engine.
“They periodically might have an oil leak, just like a car. The difference is the turbine is enclosed. They could
leak outside, but that is very rare. Generally, if there is a leak, it is enclosed,” Stengel said.
The company spokesperson reported that NextEra trains employees to respond to emergencies.
Stengel said emergency action drills are held every quarter and over the course of one year, all employees are required to take part in the drills. Written procedures are in place for emergencies as well, he said.
Of the 10,000 megawatts NextEra has in wind energy, Stengel said one percent of turbines fail. Again, he compared the failure to car engines, which have been known to catch fire.
NextEra is also responsible for the decommissioning of turbines. Sullivan and her team would be in charge of the decommission.
To offset decommissioning the site, she said NextEra would sell the steel from the old turbines for scrap.
There isn’t a way to determine how much money a decommissioning plan would require because amounts change from year to year, Stengel said.
“You could look at the numbers as they are today, but that won’t be accurate in 40 years’ time,” Stengel said.
The contracts with landowners suggest 40 years and then three increments of 20 years.
Stengel said concerned persons should contact NextEra for information.
“We know there are a lot of concerns about this. Our hope is get the information out there,” he said.
Vera Mathis is the land specialist who may be contacted via cell phone or email. Her cell phone number is 317-554-9561. Email her at email@example.com.