Senators tour wind farm and like what they see

By the time you read this, all 50 towers in the first phase of the Broken Bow wind farm project will be erected. A contingency of state representatives visited the wind farm Tuesday afternoon and got a first hand, up close and personal look at the giant turbines. State senators representing seven districts from across Nebraska toured the wind farm, hosted by Edison Mission Group. Senators attending were: John Wightman and his wife of Lexington, Ken Schilz of Ogallala, Tom Carlson of Holdrege, Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, Annette Dubas of Fullerton, Steve Lathrop of Omaha and Ken Haar of Malcolm.. Along with the senators, local land owner JoAnn Kottmeyer, and CEDC President Melissa Garcia also attended the tour, which began with an overview presentation of the construction of the wind farm. The project began in October 2011. Site manager Bart Richardson explained that many factors were considered when erecting the towers, including distance between towers, distance between the towers and residences, and the preservation of the nature of the land. For example, Richardson explained that they will be watching closely for whooping cranes this fall, and if any are noticed in the vicinity of a tower that tower will be shut down until the birds are gone. The turbines are erected at a minimum distance of a quarter mile from any residence, and a minimum of three miles from the Broken Bow airport property. During the initial groundwork for installing a tower, about three acres of land is disturbed. However, Richardson explains that when completed only about a quarter acre of land is disturbed with the finished tower. For now, the truck traffic has all but disappeared compared to what it was the past couple of months. Richardson says trucks were delivering eight turbines per day, with nine truck loads per turbine.”That equals a lot of truck traffic.” Currently, 38 of the 50 towers have FAA lights, following inspection and recommendations from the FAA. Following the presentation of facts and figures, the group headed to the turbine located at the highest point on the wind farm, on land owned by John McIntosh. This vantage point allowed the group to view the wind farm each direction. It also provided the opportunity to see up-close just how high up in the air the turbines stretch. The second and final stop on the tour was the site of a tower not yet completed. The plan was to have all 50 turbines erected by the time the group visited, but lightning and wind delayed the process. In so doing, the group got the chance to see the blades up close, and the size of the crane used to put the turbine together. Recurring comments made by the senators and other attending the tour were; 1 - how beautiful the landscape is, and 2 - how enormous the turbines are. In other words, the group seemed impressed with what they saw. Active in developing wind energy for more than a decade, Edison Mission Group (EMG) currently has four Nebraska wind projects in Boone, Custer and Knox counties. These four projects will deliver a combined 280 MW of clean and affordable energy to residents and businesses in the state. The Broken Bow project will deliver 80 MW of energy, which is enough electricity to serve about 25,000 homes. Nebraska Public Power District is the power purchaser of this wind project. EMG’s four Nebraska wind projects represent a total investment of approximately $580 million. More than 78 land owners will receive a combined total of more than $42 million in lease income over the next 25 years. In addition, the projects will generate more than $66 million in tax revenues over the next 25 years. Locally, the wind farm project has employed a maximum number of 150 people at one time, generating a boost in revenue to the community of Broken Bow. The next step in phase 1 is the installation of the electrical components to get the turbines operational. The projected completion date of this phase of the project is Nov. 30.