When completed, NextEra Energy Resources’ Skeleton Creek project is going to be a marvel.
Already, the wind energy part of the project, Skeleton Creek Wind, is operational and will generate 250 megawatts of wind energy for Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, which will purchase all the project’s electricity — enough to power 150,000 homes.
The rest of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Skeleton Creek Solar will produce 250 megawatts of solar energy, and Skeleton Creek Storage will be a 200 megawatt, four-hour battery energy storage project. The project will be located in Garfield, Alfalfa and Major counties.
The project is good for our state’s economy, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for county governments and school districts. The wind project created approximately 200 jobs during the construction phase and will add an additional 150 during the construction of the solar and energy storage site. The entire project will provide approximately $105 million in payments to county governments over its projected 30-year operational life, and approximately $90 million in payments to local landowners.
The project was a long time in coming, for various reasons.
The project, which has been planned since 2015, originally was scheduled for completion by the end of 2019. But, it was pushed back a year over concerns the wind farm might conflict with airspace used by Vance Air Force Base. Those concerns potentially pitted two massive industries against each other: wind power, which accounts for about a third of the state’s energy production, and the military, which is the state’s largest employer.
But, NextEra was willing to work with the Air Force and was willing to work through any concerns.
The company brought in retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Anthony Rock as a consultant to help deconflict the wind developer’s building plans with the Air Force’s airspace needs. Rock said the potential conflict turned into a productive relationship, where both sides worked hard to “cooperate, collaborate, innovate and compromise,” and found ways to get to “yes, if” instead of focusing on “no, because.”
Rock credited former 71st Flying Training Wing commander Col. Corey Simmons, who now is commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., with working to find a “beneficial outcome for all.”
We want to commend NextEra for the accomplishment of getting Skeleton Creek Wind up and running. We also want to commend the company for working with the Air Force to resolve the issues related to airspace. That’s how business should be done.