Randolph School District will reap harvest from Wind Farm

HARTINGTON — The construction of a Sholes Wind Energy Center, southeast of Randolph, could heap additional valuation into the Randolph School District.
The Sholes Wind Energy Center, owned and operated as a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, is located in Wayne County.
All or a majority of the estimated 70 wind turbines could be sitting in the Randolph School District.
With a capital cost of over $250 million, the Sholes wind farm is expected to bring in approximately $30 million in property taxes over the first 30 years, according to Tara Tyson, representative for NextEra Energy.
Taxing entities that will share in the tax amounts include Wayne County, Randolph School District, NE Community College, Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District, fire district, Educational Service Unit and others.
Landowners, where the turbines will be located, will be paid an estimated $40 million over the same 30-year period.
Low-cost homegrown energy will be generated, according to Phil Clement, Project Director, Renewable Development, NextEra Energy Resources.
“The project will include tremendous benefits by providing millions of dollars in landowner payments and adding millions in additional tax revenue to benefit local schools, roads and essential services, Clement said. “We continue to talk with landowners, however, as of now there are more than 50 landowners participating in the project.”
Job opportunities will be another benefit for the Randolph area as well.
About 200 construction workers will be in the area with a number of them staying in motels. The workers will be eating and purchasing groceries.
Permanent jobs will also be involved with the Sholes Wind Energy Center, according to Clement.
Six to ten full time operations jobs will become available with the completion of the wind facility,
The construction of the large wind facility has included a few concerns from local residents and some of the other land owners in the area.
Due to having people voice some of those concerns at various Wayne County meetings, the Wayne County Commissioners have adopted a road-haul agreement, which states requirements of road usage, utility placement and the decommissioning of the facility at the end of the life of the wind towers.
Clement addressed concerns with the noise factor and the shadow effect in the surrounding homes.
“With the evolution of modern wind turbine technology, most of the time the mechanical noise from the turbine is indistinguishable from the natural environment,” he said. “Experts will take detailed sound measurements of project sites, using American National Standards Institute, Inc., methodology.”
There is also a minimum 1,400 foot setback from homes located in the area of the Sholes Wind Energy facility.
The company has been working through the process with Wayne County and the Department of Transportation along with the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission on permits that involve an environmental impact.
“We have received all of the local permits needed and are working to submit the remaining state level permits over the next few months,” Clement said.
NextEra Energy will not be receiving any federal funding for the construction of the project, according to Clement.
The Sholes Wind Energy Center should be up and running in 2019.
“It takes between six-nine months to construct a wind energy center. We are working to complete development and have the project begin operations in 2019,” Clement said.
Wayne County, the Randolph School District and the other taxing entities will reap benefits from the Sholes Wind facility, but will not see any power from the project as an agreement is in place for Omaha Public Power District to purchase 100 percent of the power generated at the Sholes Wind Energy Center over the next 20 years.
Due to a commitment to increase renewable generation, OPPD will begin providing 40 percent of the retail electric sales via renewable energy sources through the new wind energy project that will be located by Sholes.
NextEra Energy Resources wants to be involved in the Nebraska 150 Celebration.
“We believe in building strong partnerships and supporting the communities we serve,” Clement said. “We are thrilled to support the Nebraska 150 Celebration as a lead sponsor of the Nebraska Experience which gives fourth graders across the state the opportunity to tour the Nebraska State Capitol or another historically or culturally relevant site.”
The Florida-based NextEra Energy, subsidiary for the Sholes project, operates over 120 successful wind projects across the United States and also has wind projects in Canadian provinces.
NextEra is the largest generator of wind and sun energy in the world.