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The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) board has approved a long-term power purchase agreement to buy up to 400 MW of wind-generated electricity from the Grande Prairie Wind Farm.

The project, to be developed by Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy LLC, will be located northeast of O'Neill, Neb. The agreement has a term of 20 years and represents OPPD's largest wind power purchase to date.

According to an OPPD spokesperson, the deal underscores the company's commitment to adding renewables to its generation portfolio.

"In fact, it is a part of our mission statement that OPPD will provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to our customers," the spokesperson says. "At the same time, OPPD is also committed to a diversified fuel mix as a means to provide the lowest rates possible to our ratepayers now and in the future. Wind generation is obviously a big part of our effort to accomplish those things. Finally, a large portion of our customer base has said this is something that they want to see us pursue, [and] as a result, this is something we will continue to pursue."

The proposal will increase OPPD's renewable energy generation capacity to 817 MW, nearly doubling current amounts, and increasing to 30% the amount of retail generation that comes from renewable energy sources.

OPPD says during discussions, the board heard that prices for wind energy are the lowest the district has seen and that acting now would allow the developer to take advantage of the federal production tax credits. However, OPPD says the agreement is contingent on the extension of those tax credits and on the project winning approval from the Nebraska Power Review Board. The new wind farm is expected to be operational in the second half of 2015.

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