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Wind farm outperforming expectations

November 23, 2016 GMT

COLUMBUS — It’s been one year since Creston Ridge Wind Farm started producing electricity and, according to Loup Public Power District data, it has exceeded expectations.

LPPD President and CEO Neal Suess said the wind farm was expected to operate at around 40 percent of capacity on average. However, the four turbines located southwest of Creston have performed well above that level.

The wind farm produces less electricity during the summer, which was expected.

Suess has been presenting monthly reports on the wind farm’s production to the utility’s board of directors since the project went online in December 2015. Only in May, July and August did energy production dip below 50 percent of capacity. In March and April, the two highest-performing months, the four turbines generated at 67.6 percent and 74.6 percent of capacity, respectively.

LPPD officials and board members and representatives from Omaha-based Bluestem Energy Solutions, the project’s developer, are happy with the results so far.

“Creston Ridge I is performing excellently,” said Bluestem project manager Adam Herink. “State-of-the-art turbines and excellent wind resource.”

Bluestem Energy constructed the wind farm and sells the electricity to LPPD through a purchase contract.

The project’s second phase, which adds three more turbines, is nearing completion.

Herink said work on roads and turbine pads is complete, and the company is in the process of ordering the turbines. So are a lot of other wind farm developers.

The 100 percent tax credit for wind projects ends at the end of the year and will decline by 20 percent annually for four years. Herink said a lot of developers are trying to meet the end-of-the-year deadline.

“Everyone (in the wind industry) is extremely busy at the end of the year,” he said.

Bluestem has already secured its 100 percent tax credit for the Creston Ridge project.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board’s finance and budget committee submitted proposed operations and construction budgets for 2017.

At this point, Suess said it looks like there will not be a rate increase for 2017, excluding a possible .5 percent increase in wholesale rates and retail rates for Archer Daniels Midland.

The proposed construction budget includes:

• a pilot smart meter project.

• construction of a new substation for the village of Creston.

• purchasing new GIS mapping software and land for future use.

• rebuilding rural distribution lines east of Cedar Rapids.

• relocation of a rural distribution line south of Columbus.

• improvement of the communication link in the Fullerton, Genoa and Albion areas.

• purchasing a new aerial lift truck for the Fullerton office and backhoe for the Loup Power Canal crew.

• continued relicensing of hydroelectric facilities.

The LPPD board will vote on the final budget and rates at its Dec. 27 meeting.