Facebook is helping to reinvigorate a stalled wind energy facility's construction in Dixon County.

Facebook data center reignites local wind energy project

A recent announcement by Facebook has reignited a stalled wind energy facility project in Dixon County.

Thanks to the data center soon to be constructed in Papillion, the Rattlesnake Creek wind project in Dixon County, situated between Allen, Wakefield and Emerson will once again have life. 

Rattlesnake Creek was proposed in 2013 by Kansas-based Tradewind Energy. The project stalled when a buyer for the power generated couldn't be found in time to take advantage of tax cuts on the federal level. 

According to Tradewind officials at the time, the risk was simply too great on the project with a price tag of $300 million at that time.

Now, it's a different story.

The facility will generate 320 megawatts, which is a significant increase over the original plan of 200 megawatts.

Upon completion, the facility will be second in size to only one other wind farm in Nebraska. Currently the 400-megawatt Grande Prairie project in Holt County holds that record. Grande Prairie was the largest wind energy facility constructed in 2016 anywhere in the United States.

According to the fact sheet Tradewind Energy provided on Rattlesnake Creek, more than 100 landowners and over 32,000 acres will be involved in the project.

Construction on Rattlesnake Creek's project is projected to begin by the end of this year with the hope of being online by the fourth-quarter in 2018, according to Brice Barton, vice president of development for Tradewind.

Projects such as this one showcase the state's wind resource.

According to David Bracht, director of the Nebraska Energy Office, wind projects here in the state are extremely productive. So much so in fact, that according to the American Wind Energy Association, in 2016 Nebraska wind energy facilities boasted an average capacity factor of 45 percent -- higher than any other state. The average capacity throughout the U.S. in 2016 was 35 percent.

Wind is closely competitive with conventional generators like coal and natural gas, even without subsidies, and construction costs for these projects have declined.

Facebook will purchase 200 megawatts of the power output at Rattlesnake Creek while the 120 megawatts remaining will be sold to other buyers.

The new electric rate structure Omaha Public Power District unveiled in January allows Facebook to power the entire Papillion project with 100 percent clean energy. Facebook's goal is to consume at least 50 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources in 2018.

The facility is valued at $307 million, according to building permits filed with Sarpy County. However, that number will increase when the county issues a permit on a second 450,000 square foot building to be built.

The Wayne Herald

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