WEBSTER COUNTY — Webster County soon will be host to the state’s latest wind power project, with 40 turbines capable of generating enough energy for 29,000 Nebraskans.
Project manager Phil Clement said construction on the $130 million Cottonwood Wind Energy Center south of Blue Hill began in late May or early June. He is hoping work on the project will be complete by mid- to late November.
The project is being taken on by Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources.
“It’s been going great,” he said of the work so far. “It really has been going well. The construction efforts have been going very, very smoothly. We’ve been working with landowners. The county of Webster has been terrific. They’ve been very supportive.”
Foundations for turbines were dug and poured in August, bases started going up in September and the turbines are being erected now. Clement said, as of Friday afternoon, five turbines have been erected.
The other 35 turbines are in various stages of completion.
The project straddles Nebraska Highway 4, stretching from Nebraska Highway 78 about 10 miles to the west.
The 40 turbines are expected to generate up to 89.7 megawatts. Of those turbines, 36 will be 2.3 MW and four will be 1.7 MW.
According to a fact sheet for the project, Cottonwood Wind Energy Center will generate more than 200 construction jobs and six to 10 full-time operation jobs.
Regarding income, $9.4 million in property taxes and $30 million in landowner payments are anticipated during the first 30 years of the project
Clement said the turbines are built for a 35-year life span.
“It’s a long time,” he said.
To get approval for the project from the Nebraska Power Review Board, NextEra was required to have a decommissioning plan.
“Everyone in Webster County can be assured that no one in Webster County will be stuck with that,” Clement said.
Among changes to the landscape for the project has been the creation of roads leading to the turbines. Clement said when the project is decommissioned, NextEra will give landowners the choice to leave those roads or return the land.
Cottonwood Wind Energy Center includes more than 50 participating landowners.
There are participation agreements with land owners within a mile of the turbine, but someone with a turbine on their land receives more money than someone without one.
Clement said it’s possible NextEra will replace the turbines with more efficient models over time as technology changes.
“Who knows, as time changes and technology changes we may seek to repower the site,” he said. “There’s a lot of options in the future but these will be in operation and working great for a long period of time.”
Electricity generated by the project will be sold to Fremont, Northeast Nebraska Public Power District, Beatrice, Wayne and South Sioux City.
“All the power is going to all Nebraska communities, Nebraskans, to power their businesses and homes,” Clement said.
While the Cottonwood Wind Energy Center has seen some opposition from people who live in the footprint of the project, Clement said he and other NextEra officials have tried to maintain a cordial relationship with neighboring landowners, addressing issues and concerns that can be addressed.
“Overall, it’s been a very, very positive response with the overwhelming majority of the people in the area,” he said. “It’s been very positive with the (county) board as well. Certainly people have brought up concerns from time to time. But we’ve addressed them. There’s not anything that’s been too drastic.”
NextEra has played host to open houses pertaining to the project, as well as landowner dinners.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Clement said. “We’re planning on being here a long time. We own the site. We’re going to operate the site and we’re not going anywhere. The last thing we want to be is a nuisance. We want to try to do all we can to be a good neighbor.”