NextEra officials met with more than 100 Fleming area landowners and other interested area residents Thursday evening to answer questions about the Niyol Wind Energy Center, a wind farm NextEra plans to build west and south of Fleming in 2020 and 2021.
Jennifer Herron, the project manager, conducted most of the meeting and fielded most of the questions, although she was accompanied by several other company officials.
When it finally goes online two years from now, Niyol will be comprised of 75 wind turbines generating 200 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power 60,000 homes. Information presented during the meeting showed the wind farm is a $200 million investment for NextEra, will employ about 250 construction workers and provide up to seven more full-time jobs in Logan County. The wind farm should generate $24 million in property taxes and pay landowners $25 million in lease payments over the first 30 years.
“There is only the Niyol project, there is no Phase 1, there is no Phase 2.”
Niyol, which Herron said is the Navajo word for “wind,” is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NextEra, which will own and operate the wind farm.
Several people at the meeting submitted questions about what would happen if NextEra sold Niyol or went bankrupt, or if the wind towers were ever decommissioned. Herron and her colleagues did their best to assure the crowd that NextEra is in excellent financial condition. An examination of NextEra’s financial health by the independent website Simply Wall Street bears that out.
Herron said there are no plans to decommission any of the wind towers. She said once the towers are up, they are intended to be permanent, although ownership could change in the distant future.
“The turbines are there to generate power, and as long as the landowners want them to stay, someone will want to use them to generate,” Herron said.
Still, should the wind towers be decommissioned – most likely at the landowner’s request – the land on which they stand would be returned to its original condition.
The company officials also addressed concerns about disposing of old components when the towers are upgraded. Most of the used components are sold to smaller wind farm companies in the U.S. and overseas or are donated to training programs to help train the growing maintenance labor force.
Herron also emphasized, rather forcefully, that the 75 Niyol towers are not a “Phase 1” of a larger planned wind farm, and that condemnation of property for the towers or the transmission line south into Washington County is not an option for the company.
“There is only the Niyol project, there is no Phase 1, there is no Phase 2,” Herron said.
She also explained that land condemnation isn’t available to NextEra as a means of securing property. “We have to negotiate,” she said. “We don’t have any other option.”
While most of those attending seemed happy with NextEra’s answers, not everyone was. One area resident said he won’t be participating because he wasn’t satisfied with answers to questions about NextEra’s and Niyol’s future.
After the meeting Herron said she’s at a loss to explain the concern over the company’s future, pointing out that the company has been around for 94 years, having begun in 1925 as Florida Power and Light. NextEra still owns FPL and several other electrical generation and distribution companies.
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