WEBSTER COUNTY — Local leaders got a firsthand look Wednesday at the construction process for wind turbines at the Cottonwood Wind Energy Center south of Blue Hill.

Employees with NextEra Energy Resources, the Florida-based company that is building and operating the wind farm, gave tours of a few wind turbine sites in various stages of completion.

Jeff Damen, senior project manager for NextEra, explained the electrical systems and substations have been completed. The company needed to install roads for the project, too, since he said it takes about 13 truckloads to bring the parts for a single wind turbine.

The concrete bases were poured this summer and measure about 9 feet deep with a 72-foot circumference. With the base ready, the transformer is constructed and the tower is erected around it. After the tower is ready, the hub and blades that make up the rotor are pieced together on the ground and then lifted by crane about 90 meters to the top of the tower.  

Electricity generated by the wind turbines travels down the inside of the tower to a transformer at the base. From there, the electricity goes through underground cables to an on-site substation. The substation sends the electricity on high-voltage transmission lines above ground to an off-site substation and into transmission lines for delivery.

Damen said crews lost about 17 days of work with the recent wind and rain. He said the rotors can’t be lifted to the top of the tower when there is too much wind.

“The crews are ready, we’re just waiting for the weather,” he said. “Hopefully when the weather clears, we’ll be able to get them up.”

Seven of the project’s 40 turbines had been completed by Tuesday and Damen said they hope to have one or two generating electricity by Thursday. They also are planning to bring in a second main crane to help get the project back on schedule for completion in November.

Four of Webster County’s commissioners participated in the tour.

Commissioner Trevor Karr said he thought the tour was well organized and is consistent with the company’s previous promises to keep leaders abreast of progress.  

“I’m tickled because they are doing a very good job communicating with the community,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Shipman said it’s much different to see the turbines tower overhead as they approached.

“You don’t realize how big they are until you get up close to them,” he said.

Phil Clement, NextEra project manager of wind development, said the company has been working with town leaders for some time and they organized the tours to provide more information about the turbines and their construction.

“We want them to be able to see the fruition of all those efforts,” he said. “We’re going to be here for a long time so we want to be good neighbors.”

Clement said NextEra has projects in various energy types. He said the company owns and operates wind farm sites for the duration of their use.

Electricity from the wind farm will be sold to Northeast Nebraska Public Power District and the cities of Beatrice, Fremont, South Sioux City and Wayne.

“We’re harvesting Nebraska wind to power Nebraska homes,” Clement said.

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