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Last month, the second phase of the Broken Bow wind farm moved into construction. The 75 MW project, which will be powered by 43 1.7 MW GE wind turbines, is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter.

In many respects, the story of the Broken Bow wind farm mirrors the recent history of the Nebraska wind market. (For more on Nebraska’s wind market, see “When Will Nebraska Join The Party?”.)

Originated by utility Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), the Broken Bow wind farm location embodies some attractive characteristics for wind energy, namely abundant wind speeds and – with minor upgrades – easy access to available transmission capacity. The wind push was spurred by a mandate from the utility’s board of directors, who called for 10% of its electricity to be generated from renewable resources, such as wind, by 2020. In 2007, the NPPD put out a request for proposals that was answered by, among others, developer Midwest Wind Energy (MWE).

“We were moving forward to reach the goal set by our board,” recalls Mark C. Becker, NPPD spokesperson, adding that the utility was enticed by the rapid advances being made in wind turbine technology. “At the time, NPPD had been conducting numerous wind studies at various locations in an effort to tap the best spots for wind farms.”

The NPPD awarded MWE with a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) and the right to develop the Broken Bow wind farm, whose site covers more than 11,000 acres located in Custer County, Neb. The 80 MW project – powered by 50 1.6 MW GE wind turbines mounted on 80-meter towers – achieved commercial operation in December 2012. By March 2013, MWE sold most of its portfolio to Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy, which now owns and operates Broken Bow I.

As MWE was obtaining land lease agreements for Broken Bow I, the developer quickly surmised that there was enough land in the project to build a second phase at Broken Bow. At that point, MWE began negotiating a PPA with the NPPD for Broken Bow’s second phase with a nameplate capacity of 75 MW.

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Enter Sempra

As the second phase of Broken Bow began to take shape, MWE started negotiations with BP Wind Energy. However, talks broke down soon after BP decided it would no longer develop new wind farms and instead focus on maintaining its current fleet of wind farms. However, BP played an important role: It introduced Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, to the project, according to Lisa Briggs, Sempra’s director of governmental and community relations.

Sempra is no stranger to wind farms. Through its equity partnership with BP, the company has ownership stakes in five wind farms, including the 141 MW Mehoopany Wind farm, located in Pennsylvania; Flat Ridge 2, a 450 MW wind farm located in Kansas; and Auwahi Wind, a 21 MW wind farm combined with 11 MW of battery storage located in Maui, Hawaii.

Notably, Sempra will develop Broken Bow II without the assistance of BP. However, Briggs is confident that enough pieces of the project are in place to translate into a successful wind project.

For starters, Sempra retained the services of Tom Swierczewski, MWE’s project manager who was responsible for the development of Broken Bow’s first phase.

“Tom has provided continuity and more,” Briggs explains. “He has been willing to provide the history of the project, which is so critical as construction begins.” A familiar face in the community, Swierczewski helped acclimate the Sempra team to Broken Bow.

Importantly, she says, the surrounding communities were extremely supportive of a second phase. And considering the economic windfall created by the construction of Broken Bow I, that was no surprise. According to Custer County officials, the construction phase of Broken Bow I injected approximately $8 million into the local economy. With approximately 300 construction workers needed to build Broken Bow II, Nebraska locals can expect more of the same. Additionally, 12 full-time employees will be needed to staff the new wind farm.

Other project aspects, such as the site’s wind regime, further enticed Sempra.

“Our wind report [performed by AWS Truepower] states that wind monitoring at the Broken Bow II project began in September 2008, and we continue to collect wind data,” Briggs explains, adding that the predicted array-average wind speed is 8.48 m/s.

She says Sempra intends to make use of available state and local incentives. For example, the company plans on submitting an application to qualify for Nebraska’s sales tax exemption, which was passed into law last year. Sempra is also planning to qualify for the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind.

By virtue of a turbine supply agreement with GE, Briggs is confident that Sempra will have spent enough on the project to meet the PTC’s 5% safe harbor provision, one of many hurdles a developer must clear to qualify for the incentive.

For the NPPD’s part, Becker notes that the output from the project will travel on the same 115 kV transmission line used by Broken Bow I. Also, Becker says that the utility intends to purchase the output of Broken Bow II over the long term. However, a PPA has not yet been completed. w

Project Profile: Broken Bow II

Key Nebraska Wind Site Gets A Sibling

By Mark Del Franco

Construction has commenced at Broken Bow II, located in Custer County, Neb. Commercial operation is slated for the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

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