NextEra looking for customer for local wind farm project

Article shared with permission from Washington County News
online here

The Washington-Republic Wind Farm is still an important development project for NextEra Energy, a wind development company based out of Juno Beach, Fla. But Dan Scheffler, Lead Project Manager for the proposed wind farm that would straddle the north part of the border of Washington and Republic Counties, said on Friday that they are still in the process of looking at customer interest by utilities, along with other prospective customers.

“That’s the main milestone we’re trying to accomplish,” said Scheffler. “But we are still very interested in the Washington-Republic project.”

NextEra first started talking to local landowners about the potential for developing a wind farm in Washington and Republic Counties in mid-2016, with a proposed timeline of construction beginning in 2020. But right from the start, NextEra representatives said finding a customer for the power produced at the wind farm would be key to its development. Scheffler said finding a customer is generally the hardest piece of finalizing a wind farm development.

“It comes down to their needs, and what is most advantageous to their needs,” said Scheffler.

Some of the struggles with this project are a lack of proximity to other generation or a substation with more capacity.

“This just makes it a little more complicated with finding a customer,” said Scheffler. He said the Washington-Republic project is very large, so they would need “serious capacity” in the form of a “rather large substation” for the transmission element of the effort.

Transmission capacity is not just a problem in this area. Scheffler said this is a problem everywhere. It’s one of the reasons the Grain Belt Express DC powerline project was proposed – to get electricity from wind farm sources in the west to customers a few states to the east.

NextEra has nothing to do with that project, but Scheffler said there is congestion in transmission from the west and that’s why projects like the Grain Belt Express are being discussed.

NextEra is working on two wind farm projects to the east of Washington County. The Soldier Creek wind farm in Nemaha County has an advantage because of its proximity to transmission, with a substation closer to the proposed site. Scheffler said that proximity was a big factor in that location.

They also recently announced a wind farm effort in southern Marshall County. Scheffler said that project is still in early stages of development.
The Washington-Republic project is much further along, especially with landowner support, according to Scheffler. He said it is a great location and NextEra still considers it as an opportunity. Existing contract renewals are coming due and Scheffler said they plan to extend as many as they can. The project is very large, however, and he said there is a possibility to make the project smaller.

He did not provide a new timeline for development of the Washington-Republic Wind Farm. He said having a flexible timeline is a positive.

“That’s why contracts are developed and written as they are, in case the opportunity does come up,” said Scheffler. “I am hopeful for the project because it has such a large support network. But the timeline for the project to get built in 2021… a lot of things need to happen. But it is too competitive to not continue developing. The project in general is fantastic. It’s a great area. We have an enormous amount of support.”