Omaha Public Power District to buy 400 MW from wind farm

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) board has approved a long-term power purchase agreement to buy up to 400 MW of wind-generated electricity from the Grande Prairie Wind Farm.

Under the 20-year-agreement, OPPD will purchase all of the renewable energy generated at the Grande Prairie Wind Farm, which will be built by Geronimo Energy of Edina, Minn.

“This will be the largest wind purchase for us that we have had to date,” said OPPD spokesman Mike Jones. The wind farm will be located northeast of O'Neill and will have 235 turbines.

As of June, the American Wind Energy Association listed Nebraska at No. 23 in the nation for installed wind capacity with 459 megawatts. There are several wind farms currently being built, including one near Steele City in southeast Nebraska.

The OPPD board voted unanimously to approve the agreement, which will increase the utility's renewable energy generation capacity to 817 megawatts, nearly doubling current amounts. It also increases to 30 percent the amount of retail generation that comes from renewable energy sources, surpassing previous corporate goals.

During discussions Thursday morning, the board heard that prices for wind energy are the lowest the district has seen and represent a good deal for OPPD customers.

“It had to do with the prices,” Jones said, when asked why the Omaha-based utility made such a large power purchase.

Also acting now would allow Geronimo Energy, the developer, to take advantage of federal production tax credits, which are set to expire at the end of this year, he said.

Duane Hovorka, executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, praised the OPPD vote, calling it a big win for the utility's customers, rural Nebraska and the environment.

“OPPD management should be congratulated,