Facebook provides boost for wind energy

Facebook gave a thumbs-up to the development of a long-dormant wind farm project in rural Dixon County.

The social media giant announced on its own platform late last week it partnered with developer Trade Winds Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, to build the Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project in northeast Nebraska.

Facebook plans to use energy from the wind farm to power its upcoming data center in Papillion.

When completed, the wind farm would be the second-largest in Nebraska and generate enough energy to power 90,000 homes.

The 320-megawatt Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project is set to be built across a 32,000-acre area in Dixon County between the towns of Allen, Emerson and Wakefield, according to Trade Winds.

According to Trade Winds, each turbine will take a minimal amount of acreage — 1 percent to 2 percent — out of service, including land for roads, turbines, foundations and maintenance buildings.

Trade Winds’ original Rattlesnake Creek was comprised of a 200-megawatt wind farm spread over 20,000 acres.

More than 100 local landowners were involved in that version of the project and they were looking at potential payments of $10,000 to $15,000 for hosting a turbine on their property.

Neither Facebook nor Trade Winds provided the number of landowners involved with the new project.

Also, no cost was given, but the new Rattlesnake Creek could likely exceed the $400 million price tag of its 200-megawatt predecessor.

Of the 320 megawatts of power Rattlesnake Creek will create, 200 will be allocated to Facebook’s data center while the remaining 120 megawatts are available for other buyers.

Facebook’s data center would receive its power via a transmission line owned by Nebraska Public Power District that runs east-west through the southern part of the project site.

Trade Winds’ original Rattlesnake Creek project fell apart in late 2013 after it failed to find buyers for the energy the wind farm would have produced. Nebraska law at the time required wind farms to sell 10 percent to in-state utilities and the rest to out-of-state users.

This updated version of the project came about because of a partnership Facebook and Trade Winds formed with Omaha Public Power District to create a tariff that provides companies access to renewable energy sources.

A timeline wasn’t provided as to when construction on the wind farm will begin, but a spokesperson for Trade Winds said it is projected to be online by the fourth quarter of 2018.