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OPPD increases its commitment to wind energy

July 13, 2017 | Jason Kuiper | generation, renewables
wind energy

Since 2015, OPPD has accelerated its commitment to increase renewable generation into its resource portfolio.

Today marks another milestone in the journey.

The announcement of a new wind facility in Wayne County, OPPD will soon provide 40 percent of its retail electric sales from renewable energy resources.

new partner

A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources will build Sholes Wind Energy Center. Construction in northeast Nebraska will begin in March 2019, with the facility operational later that year. At that time, OPPD will purchase 100 percent of the 160 megawatts (MWs) produced by the facility. The project is the first wind facility for OPPD since 400-MW Grande Prairie facility came online in late 2016. OPPD has a 20-year agreement with NextEra Energy Resources.

renewables growth
Tim-Burke_2017
Timothy J. Burke

OPPD committed to increasing its renewable generation to 30 percent in 2015 after a lengthy stakeholder process that included customer input. Prior to 2015, the utility’s goal was to have 10 percent by 2020. Now, OPPD is working toward providing 51 percent of retail electric sales from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Since the goal was established, the utility has proactively increased the amount of renewables in its portfolio:

  • In 2016: 19.6 percent of retail sales were supplied from renewable energy resources.
  • In 2017: retail energy sales supplied by renewables are projected to be 34 percent.
  • Retail energy sales from renewables are projected to be 40 percent when the new Sholes facility comes online.

The 160-megawatts from the Sholes Wind Energy Center supports OPPD’s latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which calls for increasing wind generation. OPPD CEO and President Tim Burke noted how far OPPD has come with renewables in such a short time, helping lead the way in the energy industry.

“Reliability, affordable rates and environmentally sensitive solutions are areas we place the highest focus on at OPPD,” Burke said. “Our 2017 Integrated Resource Plan was developed using extensive analysis and helps guide our roadmap to meet our mission and strategic directives. The addition of more wind energy is the right thing to do for our customer-owners and assures we remain on the right path.”

NextEra

NextEra Energy Resources, based in Florida, is one of the country’s largest wholesale generators of electric power. They report approximately 19,990 megawatts of generating capacity in 29 states and Canada. NextEra Energy Resources and its affiliated entities comprise the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun.

“We are pleased to partner with OPPD to bring the Sholes Wind Energy Center to Nebraska,” said Mike O’Sullivan, senior vice president of Development for NextEra Energy Resources. “This energy center will harness the state’s wind resource to create home-grown, renewable energy, as well as jobs and increased tax revenue for the local community.”

timing is right

OPPD officials said the timing is right for adding more wind generation and the recent work done to bring Grande Prairie online has made this project go smoother.

“It is a great time to buy wind, the prices are very competitive,” said Jon Hansen, vice president of Energy Production & Marketing.

Facebook is building a data center in Sarpy County and plans to procure 100 percent renewable energy for the facility. The data center will include two 450,000-square-foot buildings and a 70,000-square-foot administration area.

The company built its newest data center in Nebraska largely due to OPPD’s Rate 261M, which is designed to help large customers meet their renewable energy needs.

OPPD cannot take advantage of the federal tax credits since the utility does not pay income taxes. Instead, public power companies distribute in-lieu-of-tax payments. These are based on 5 percent of OPPD’s gross revenues from retail sales of electricity in incorporated cities and towns. In 2016, OPPD paid more than $33 million in-lieu-of-tax.

Grande Prairie Wind Farm located in Holt County added 400 megawatts to OPPD’s portfolio earlier this year.
more to come

OPPD will continue looking to add more renewables, particularly wind, in the coming years.

“OPPD continuously evaluates our energy resources,” said Jeff Karloff, division manager of Production Engineering & Fuels. “When OPPD’s customer requirements, market prices, and the cost to purchase energy align, OPPD is prepared to seize the opportunity.”

The investment is a welcome one not just for OPPD’s customers, but also for Wayne County. Construction there could bring in approximately 200 jobs during the construction period and six to 10 full-time operations jobs. The project will provide more than $30 million in estimated tax revenue.

Wes Blecke, executive director of Wayne Area Economic Development said his organization started working on this project in 2013.

“To see this project come to fruition is incredible for the area,” Blecke said. “The economic development benefits that come with the construction phase of these projects, and then the continued operations of a wind facility, are very valuable for the entire region. We are excited to work with NextEra Energy Resources to make this process go as smoothly as possible.”

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

View all posts by Jason Kuiper >

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