BHE Renewables picks up Grande Prairie wind project in Nebraska

BHE Renewables, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, has acquired the Grande Prairie project from Geronimo Energy, which was initially announced in October 2013 when the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) approved a long-term agreement to purchase 100% of the wind farm’s generation.

When built, this project, located in Holt County, would be the largest wind energy project in Nebraska’s history.

“We are very pleased to be working with BHE Renewables to continue to move this project forward,” said Tim Burke, incoming OPPD President and CEO, in an April 30 statement. “When we announced a long-term power purchase agreement to buy wind generation from this facility in 2013, our goal was to plan for the future and position OPPD to have more than 30 percent of our future retail generation come from renewable sources. This will put us on the path to make that happen.”

“We are excited to be constructing this wind farm in Holt County and build our first project in the state,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of BHE Renewables. “The Grande Prairie project will have a major impact on Nebraska’s economy and energy future while helping our customer, Omaha Public Power District, meet its long-term renewable goals.”

At the end of 2014, OPPD had 418.6 MW of renewables, which included wind and landfill gas, among other resources. Once online, Grande Prairie will almost double that amount for the district. In addition to the purchase agreement with Grande Prairie, OPPD has existing contracts with wind farms near Ainsworth, Bloomfield, Broken Bow, Crofton, Humboldt and Petersburg, all in Nebraska. The district also has an agreement to purchase up to 200 MW of generation from Prairie Breeze, a 118-turbine wind farm near Elgin, Neb., that went online last May.

BHE Renewables’ plans call for construction at Grande Prairie to begin this summer with completion scheduled for the end of 2016. Once operational, the wind farm will increase Nebraska’s wind energy capacity by nearly 50%. It represents the first project in the state of Nebraska for BHE Renewables. Fehrman said the project will create an estimated 350 temporary construction jobs and 12 to 15 on-site permanent full-time jobs while generating over $4 million per year in landowner lease payments, contributions to a community fund, and tax revenue for the county, schools, fire districts and townships.

“Our evolving portfolio reflects the growing demand in the U.S. for clean, renewable energy solutions,” Fehrman said. “Energy from renewable sources gives our utility customers and states the ability to comply with increasingly strict environmental standards, providing long-term sustainable solutions.”

Founded in 2011, BHE Renewables owns and operates more than 3,400 MW of wind, solar, geothermal and hydro resources that produce energy for customers under long-term power purchase agreements. The company has invested more than $10 billion in renewable energy resources and will have more than 1,300 MW of wind generation capacity in operation when recent acquisitions are complete. In addition to its investments in wind generation, BHE Renewables owns 1,271 MW of solar generation in Arizona and California, 10 geothermal facilities in California’s Imperial Valley, and two hydroelectric facilities, one in Hawaii and one in the Philippines.

BHE Renewables also recently acquired the 225-MW Walnut Ridge Project in Illinois and plans to begin construction in 2016. As a long-term owner of assets, the company’s wind projects include the: 300-MW Jumbo Road project near Hereford, Texas; 168-MW Pinyon Pines I and 132-MW Pinyon Pines II projects, located near Tehachapi, California; 81-MW Bishop Hill II project in Henry County, Illinois; 400-MW Grande Prairie project in Holt County, Nebraska; and the up to 225-MW Walnut Ridge project in Bureau County, Illinois.

The Omaha Public Power District is a publicly-owned electric utility serving more than 360,000 customers. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, it is the 12th-largest public utility in the United States, serving 47 towns at retail, five at wholesale and the surrounding areas in 13 southeastern Nebraska counties.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.