Florida firm will build wind farm in Jefferson and Gage counties

A Florida company plans to build a $138 million wind farm in parts of Jefferson and Gage counties in southeast Nebraska.

The Steele Flats Wind Project, to be built by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla., would generate nearly 75 megawatts of electricity from 44 turbines in both counties, said Steve Stengel, a company spokesman.

“The project is in the very southern part of Jefferson County along Highway 8 between Steele City and the county line with Gage,” he said.   Nebraska 8 runs east and west.   Gage County is east of Jefferson County.

On Friday, the Nebraska Public Power District Board authorized its management to sign an agreement with the Florida company to buy all of the electricity from the project over the next 20 years, said NPPD spokesman Mark Becker.

NextEra Energy Resources still needs to obtain permits for the project from Gage and Jefferson county officials, Stengel said. If all goes well, the project could be done by the end of the year.

About 150 people would be employed during the “height of construction,” he said, and five full-time employees would be needed to operate and maintain it, Stengel said.

He estimated that the project would generate about $11 million in property taxes, which would be shared by the two counties.

Stengel said landowners also will receive lease payments for the project, which could generate power beyond 20 years.

Paul Dockery, the company’s project manager, told the Gage County Planning Commission on Thursday that the 426-foot-tall turbines would be linked by underground cables and would be connected to an NPPD substation at Steele City.

Stengel said the Steele Flats Wind Project was originally developed by Infinity Wind Power, a Santa Barbara, Calif., company, and NextEra Energy Resources purchased it from them. He said all of the land leases for the project have been secured.

NextEra Energy Resources is the largest owner and operator of wind power in North America, Stengel said. The company has projects that generate a total of 10,000 megawatts, enough to power a city the size of Chicago.

“For us, this project represents what we felt was a good opportunity to expand our business in a state that we currently do not have any other assests in with a new customer (NPPD),” Stengel said.

The Steele Flats Wind Project grew out of efforts last year by NPPD and the Omaha Public Power District to solicit proposals from wind developers for up to 75 megawatts of wind energy, Becker said.

NPPD entered negotiations for the Steele Flats Wind Project, while waiting on Congress to renew the federal tax credit for wind projects, which it did in January.

OPPD pursued and signed a 20-year agreement in December buy 200 megawatts from the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm near Elgin in northeast Nebraska.

When the Steele Flats Wind Project is completed, NPPD will have a total of 282 megawatts of wind generation.