Thursday, September 20, 2018
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County is treasure trove of wind energy

A new kind of harvest is spreading across the state that replaces planters and combines with turbines and transmission lines.

Just up the road, the Broken Bow Wind project is poised to fire up turbines in the next few weeks.

Closer to home, construction of the Dawson County Wind Farm—spanning about 15,000 acres between Highway 21 south of Lexington and Highway 47 south of Gothenburg—is getting closer.

Officials of developer Geronimo Wind Energy met with landowners recently to bring them up to date on the project and told them they hope to get an agreement in 2015 to sell power generated from the farm.

Construction would then begin.

Geronimo leases property where turbines and transmission lines will be constructed.

Project manager Jordan Burmeister said landowners are expected to earn about $600,000 in lease royalties, totaling about $12 million during a 20-year period.

Since January, a meteorological tower—built seven miles northeast of Farnam—has collected data that is transmitted cellularly to Geronimo Company headquarters in Edina, MN.

So far, he said the average wind speed is 16-18 mph. Most breezes are from the south followed by a northerly direction.

Burmeister said at least two years of data are needed before Geronimo can obtain financing.

A federal wind production tax credit may disappear at year’s end but Geronimo officials are optimistic about an incentive being passed yet this year.

Burmeister and Justin Pickar, Geronimo director of development, said states like Nebraska could pass their own wind production tax credits.

“We need you to help us pass bills to support wind energy to get through the barriers,” Burmeister said.

Both noted that the state lags behind in wind development despite its fourth-place rank in the nation in wind availability.

A paltry 1.2% of Nebraska power was provided by wind in 2010, enough to power 80,000 homes, Pickar said, noting that 92% of Nebraska’s land could be available to harness wind power.

Burmeister pointed to an assessment from the National Renewable Energy Lab stating that Nebraska’s wind resource could provide the state’s current electricity needs 120 times over.

Unique to the state is that most power is sold to Nebraska Public Power District or Omaha Public Power District.

The power generated from the Dawson Wind Farm will likely be sold to NPPD or exported from the state, Burmeister said.

In the meantime, he said environmental and impact studies are expected to start soon followed by turbine siting and permitting by state and local governments.

Not only will Geronimo create jobs in the area, Burmeister said the company also will create a tax-exempt fund, fed by the project once it’s operational, that gives money to organizations and communities for such things as local infrastructure, charitable contributions or playground equipment.

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