Will there one day be a fifth commercial wind farm in Antelope County?
An application has been filed with County Zoning Administrator Liz Doerr for a conditional use permit (CUP) for Thunderhead Wind Energy, LLC.
The Antelope County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the permit application, the first step in a lengthy process, on Tuesday night, Oct. 23. The hearing will be held in the downstairs meeting room of the Antelope County Courthouse in Neligh.
Only the area in Antelope County will be the subject of the public hearing.
The permit is being sought by Invenergy who operates Prairie Breeze I, II and III wind farms; and is in the process of building a fourth wind farm, Upstream Wind Energy, located primarily north and east of Neligh.
The CUP application comes just months after a moratorium on wind farms in Antelope County expired.
According to information in the CUP application, which can be viewed at the Antelope County Planning Commission’s office website (https://antelopecounty.nebraska.gov/zoning:administrator) and also be clicking this link:
Thunderhead Wind Farm LLC
The Thunderhead wind farm would be located northwest of Elgin, south of Clearwater and west into Wheeler County. Power collected from the wind farm would go to a project collector substation then to an above ground transmission line at 345kV voltage to Nebraska Public Power District’s Holt County Substation.
As proposed, underground electric lines will be at 34.5kV voltage and will collect energy generated from the wind turbines back to the collector substation.
Thunderhead is proposing 171 total turbine locations (137 in Antelope and 34 in Wheeler County).
“The Thunderhead Wind Project is a renewable energy generation facility of up to 300 megawatts (MW) of nameplate capacity located within a project boundary containing nearly 75,000 acres in Antelope County, approximately 48,000 acres of which is currently under lease agreement,” the CUP project summary states.
“The Project as a whole is expected to extend into Wheeler and Holt Counties.”
Thunderhead anticipates entering into additional land leases with new landowners within the project area as development continues.
The application goes on to state Thunderhead “has also provided new opportunities for residents to participate in a wind project who may not have had an opportunity when previous projects were developed and built.
Other items of note from the application are:
• Thunderhead will include up to 137 General Electric, or similar tier-1 manufacturer, Wind Turbines.
The nameplate generating capacity of each wind turbine will range from 2.3 MWs up to 3.8 MWs and will total no more than 300 MW of capacity in Antelope County.
• The maximum height of the wind turbines will be approximately 498 feet when the top rotor blade is directly above and parallel to the tower. The total height may be less depending on the final turbine model selected.
• Thunderhead agrees to establish a separate road repair and maintenance agreement with Antelope County before start of construction. Particular emphasis will be placed on strict adherence to utilization of only those roads within the use agreement.
• A typical wind turbine and its accessory facilities removes approximately one-third to one-half acre of land from production, with the remainder of the property remaining agricultural in use.
• Upon completion, Thunderhead “will result in an annual economic development comparable to that of Prairie Breeze, given their similar sizes … the project anticipates injecting over $1 million approximately annually into the local economy through local taxes, landowner payments, employees’ wages and other local spending.
• Thunderhead is likely to result in the hiring of up to 15 full-time employees as well as 400 part-time construction positions.
• Regarding tax revenue, under current law in Nebraska, a 300 MW project would pay approximately $1,055,400 annually in nameplate capacity taxes every year (based on the current legislation of $3,518 per megawatt).
The hearing is the first of a lengthy process which may take months to complete, if past wind farm permit applications are any indication.
The commission will ultimately make a recommendation to the Antelope County Board of Commissioners who will one day vote up or down on the permit application.
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