$430 million price tag for Facebook wind farm

November 17, 2017 GMT

WAKEFIELD — A new Facebook-supported wind farm being built in Dixon County should give local residents a few million reasons to like it.

The upcoming Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project will distribute $80 million in property taxes and payments to landowners over the first 20 years of its existence, according to officials at Enel Green Power North America Inc.

Additionally, Enel Green Power is spending $430 million to build Rattlesnake Creek and it’ll be the second-largest wind farm in the Cornhusker State upon completion.

The 101-turbine, 320-megawatt wind farm is being built southwest of Sioux City, Iowa, across 32,000 acres between the Nebraska communities of Allen, Emerson and Wakefield.

The Andover, Massachusetts-based renewable energy company, a subsidiary of the multinational Enel Group, purchased the rights to the wind farm from Lenexa, Kansas-based Trade Winds Energy shortly after the Facebook deal was announced in late October.

Slightly more than 100 local landowners are involved in the project, and the landowner payments and tax payments are almost evenly split down the middle.

Construction has already started.

“It’s mainly sight surveying and pre-construction activities; trying to get the roads in before winter,” said Mark McGrail, Enel Green Power’s associate vice president of energy management. “We’ll probably start full construction probably in the spring after the thaw. We’ll start out with foundations and some of that type of work and turbine delivery starts in June.”

During the peak construction period, the Dixon County project will create 300 construction jobs and establish 12 to 16 full-time jobs. McGrail predicts Rattlesnake Creek will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2018.

Of the 320 megawatts of power Rattlesnake Creek will create, 200 megawatts will be allocated to Facebook’s data center about 100 miles away in Papillion. The remaining 120 megawatts will be available for other buyers.

Once fully operational, Rattlesnake Creek will be able to generate about 1.3 terawatt hours annually, enough energy to meet the equivalent annual consumption needs of more than 105,000 U.S. households, while avoiding the emission of around 940,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Prior to Facebook’s involvement, the Rattlesnake Creek project had been stagnant since 2013 after its former owners Trade Winds failed to find buyers for the energy the wind farm would have produced. Nebraska law at the time required wind farms to sell 10 percent of their output to in-state utilities and the rest out-of-state.

This updated version of the project came about through a partnership Facebook, Trade Winds and Enel formed with Omaha Public Power District to create a tariff that provides companies access to renewable energy sources.