Monday, October 31, 2011
Third Planet Windpower Announces Commissioning of Its 40.5 MW Petersburg Wind Project.

Third Planet Windpower (TPW) and Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) today celebrated the addition of more wind power to OPPDs generating portfolio by commissioning a new Petersburg wind project. The project resulted from almost 5 years of cooperative effort between the community, OPPD and TPW. The Petersburg wind project is one of two large-scale wind farms commissioned in Nebraska this year; the other was Flatwater.

The project has 27 GE turbines and will supply enough electricity each year to provide the needs of approximately 12,000 homes. Energy from the Petersburg wind project will be sold to OPPD and distributed to their customers over the next 20 years.

Nebraskas top two executives, Governor Dave Heineman and Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy, were on hand for the ceremony as were representatives of OPPD, Nebraska Public Power District and other community leaders.

Former county commissioner, merchant, and resident Hank Thieman commented, Rural economic development needs more of this type of win-win project. The impact is immense and we will see the results for decades to come. I envision many housing opportunities and job creation through the county. The tax base in Petersburg and the entire county will benefit from the environmentally friendly wind farms.

OPPD also is buying all the power from the other wind farm commissioned in the state this year, a 60 MW operation in Richardson County. OPPD has pledged to use renewable energy to provide 10 percent of the electricity it sells to its 350,000 by the year 2020.

More wind turbines are going up at Third Planet Windpower's Loraine wind farm.

Thirty three additional turbines will be constructed on existing infrastructure to join the 67 operational turbines already on site.

"We're really proud to be a part of Mitchell County," Cliff Clement, Third Planet Windpower land vice president said.

"Without Mitchell County, the city of Loraine and all the area landowners who are part of the project, there is no way the project could have been built," he said.

"We started off in 2006 as an upstart developing company, then transitioned to a construction and operations company," Clement said. "In two and a half years we went from basically an expense type company as a development company to a revenue generating company."

A pretty impressive accomplishment for a company started by a small group of wind developers, who went westward looking for a place to develop wind power.

"What's more impressive is in less than 1000 days we had developed, constructed and operated a 100 megawatt wind farm in Loraine. That's an amazing accomplishment," Clement said. "There are not that many wind companies that do it in that short of a period. We appreciate Mitchell County's help."

Construction on the Loraine wind farm began in 2008 and the first turbine went online generating power in 2009.

The company originally planned a 250 megawatt project consisting of 167 GE 1.5 megawatt turbines. Tumbling energy prices have slowed the vision, but not ended it.

"In 2006, the West Texas market average price was $65 per megawatt hour," Clement said. "In 2007 when we signed the first lease, the price dropped to $52." In 2008, the price was in the upper $40s and by the time the first turbines went operations, the price hit $25 per megawatt hour. Today's prices are in the low $30.

"The downward spiral favord the board changing or downsizing the project. Instead we built out all the infrastructure for the entire 250 megawatt project," Clement said.

Third Planet constructed 67 turbines and built out 167 pads, along with all the necessary infrastructure such as roads, collection lines, "everything in anticipation of building out the project to full size," Clement said. "We can't thank the Loraine community enough for their patience and understanding."

Clement credits the project's success to Walt Kamp and Jim Kutey, who spearheaded the project and an excellent management team: John Hartzog, commercial operations overseer; Pam Daniel, support specialist; Mike Abbot, assistant manager and Carl Durham, assistant production manager.

The new turbines being installed are the CE 1.5xle, with longer, bigger blades than the 1.5sle, which required some additional "beefing up" of the pads. The size of the blade is the most notable difference. The 1.5xle has a 40 meter length as opposed to the 1.5sles 37 meter blade. It gives us a much bigger sweep to capture the wind, Clement said.

Clement expects the construction of the new turbines to be completed by February 15 and will provide 150 megawatts of electrical power.

"We sell into the current market place," Clement said. "We're getting power out now. The times we're shut down and not generating is because its not financial feasible."

Larger voltage lines means Third Planet has less transmission congestion locally, although further down the line they do face congestion like other companies.