Wind turbine blades on the move

A truck carrying a wind turbine blade crosses the Veterans Memorial Bridge into Dakota Avenue in South Sioux City on Aug, 25, 2015. The city of South Sioux City recently approved an agreement to receive 15 megawatts of energy from a new wind farm in southern Nebraska.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SOUTH SIOUX CITY | The city of South Sioux City has approved an agreement to receive 15 megawatts of energy from a new wind farm in southern Nebraska. 

The move is the latest by the northeast Nebraska city to diversify its energy portfolio as it pulls away from the Nebraska Public Power District, the state's largest electrical utility. 

The South Sioux City Council voted last month in approval of an agreement with Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources LLC that could bring the equivalent of 33 percent of the city's power needs via the Cottonwood Wind Farm, a project currently under construction in Webster County. 

City Administrator Lance Hedquist said the city now must decide whether it will purchase the energy to use on its own or sell it and use the profit to benefit ratepayers. 

"We can buy it and turn around and sell it -- because the electric price is lower than what most people pay -- and make a profit for the citizens," he said. "That's a decision the City Council will make."

Hedquist said he's confident that the power will be fully ready by Jan. 1, 2020, but it could be much sooner. 

The $130 million 40-turbine project, which is estimated to produce 90 megawatts total, will have the capacity to serve roughly 27,000 households with electricity, according to NextEra spokesman Bryan Garner. Construction began in May and is expected to conclude by year's end. 

NextEra is the largest generator of wind energy in the world. The company operates more than 115 wind projects in 20 states and four Canadian provinces, totaling approximately 9,300 wind turbines. 

Along with South Sioux City, some beneficiaries of the project include the Northeast Nebraska Public Power District and the cities of Fremont and Wayne. 

South Sioux City in recent years has taken several steps to diversify where it gets its energy. The city plans to fully phase out of its contract with the Nebraska Public Power District, the largest electric utility in the state of Nebraska, by 2020, Hedquist said.

Earlier this year, a 21-acre privately financed solar park built by California-based SolarCity began operations. The park produces 2.3 megawatts of capacity, enough to meet 5 percent of the city's electrical needs. 

The city plans to purchase 7 percent of the city's power from hydroelectric sources and another 7 percent from Green Star Gasifiers, a renewable fuel company building a $25 million plant in the city’s Roth Industrial Park that will use wood waste and other wastes to make electricity.

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