The Cornhusker Harvest wind farm project is one step closer to being built with three meteorological towers being put up near Tobias earlier this month.
The farm, to be built on land in both Fillmore and Saline counties, is being headed by APEX Clean Energy based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has been in the pre-construction stages since 2016.
According to APEX project developer Dylan Ikkala, a total of eight towers are included in the project. Ground has yet to be broken on the project as the meteorological towers were needed to gather data. The towers are meant to be temporary.
“I would say we are in the early to mid stages of the project,” Ikkala said. “The towers are gathering data as we speak, and we will start environmental studies this spring.”
The three towers were previously approved at the June 27 Saline County commissioners’ meeting.
Now that the meteorological towers are installed, the project can move forward. Ikkala said APEX has to work with landowners in the area who are interested in housing the equipment. From there, site control and power marketing are the next steps.
In order to build a wind farm, APEX has to be able to meet a few requirements before proceeding.
“We have to identify the site, the community of the site has to be accepting of the building and then we begin to lease the land,” Ikkala said.
One of the biggest challenges for wind farms are companies’ willingness to buy such massive amounts of electricity.
“This is all driven by the community, and their progress and support helps us to work faster,” Ikkla said.
Leasing the land tends to take the longest, according to Ikkala, as APEX has to reach out to land owners and buyers of electricity, and that is why the time lines of these projects often get pushed back.
The reason there has been an influx in wind farms lately is because of changing laws in Nebraska.
In 2016, LB 824 passed to allow a private developer to proceed with construction of a renewable energy project as long as the Nebraska Power Review Board is notified that all local government laws are met by the company.
“It really opened up new doors for wind development in Nebraska,” Ikkala said.
APEX is aware of potential opposition to a wind farm project, as some people spoke at the June 27 commissioners’ meeting about distance regulations to homes and roads.
Ikkala said Saline County residents have been mostly receptive to the project.
A big callenge that APEX deals with is communities being misinformed, Ikkala said.
He encourages anyone doing research on wind farms to use sites online that use credible sources.
If anyone is hesitant about the idea of a wind farm within the county, Ikkala has some advice.
“I always just say go out to the nearest wind farm, turn off your car, listen and then question it for yourself,” Ikkala said.
The environmental and economic values of a wind farm come in high numbers, Ikkala said. Not only would landowners benefit, but the community does, too.
APEX is contractually obligated to pay $1.1 million to the state of Nebraska, most of which will go back into Saline and Fillmore counties’ infrastructure and schools, the amount depending on the tax levy for the year.
Both temporary and permanent jobs will be available once the farm is up and running.
“We’ve been very pleased with the Saline County community and look forward to building the project,” Ikkala said.
APEX is hoping that the project will be completed in 2019.
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