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Omaha utility board OKs plan to double wind energy

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October 18, 2013 09:53 AM EST | AP

OMAHA, Neb. — OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Omaha Public Power District said Thursday it plans to buy 400 megawatts of power from a wind farm being built near O'Neill in northeast Nebraska, drawing praise from wind energy proponents.

The utility's board voted Thursday to approve a 20-year contract for the electricity, which is enough to supply power to 118,000 customers, the utility said. The utility currently serves about 350,000 customers in and around Omaha.

The plan now goes to the Nebraska Power Review board for approval.

The agreement would bring OPPD's use of renewable energy to 817 megawatts, nearly doubling its current capacity.

The utility also anticipates the deal will mean 30 percent of its retail sales to customers will come from renewable energy sources by the end of 2015 — substantially surpassing its goal of 10 percent by 2020.

The Nebraska Sierra Club said OPPD's announcement "is a huge win" for the utility's customers.

"The board and management heard the call for clean energy, found Nebraska wind projects and locked in low-cost clean energy that will provide benefits to customer-owners for years to come," said Ken Winston, the Nebraska Sierra Club's policy advocate.

The praise was in sharp contrast to the criticism the Sierra Club and other groups leveled at the Nebraska Public Power District last week after that utility's board rejected a proposal to buy up to 200 additional megawatts of wind energy by the end of the year.

NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope said following the vote that the utility's plants already produce more energy than customers currently use.