- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha Public Power District is getting assistance from Facebook to boost the share of its wind electricity.

The utility doubled its wind-generating capacity in January, and now it’s planning to add more to meet the social media giant’s stated intention of powering its planned Sarpy County data center with 100 percent renewable energy, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2nXVK5P ) reported.

The utility also plans to recommend that its board add up to 450 megawatts of wind energy because of the Facebook project and the recent closure of its nuclear plant.

In January, the utility’s board approved a new rate structure allowing large electricity users, such as Facebook, to fulfill their energy demand with renewable-energy generation.

Discussions with Facebook of how to draw large, environmentally minded electric customers in Omaha began in 2013, said Tim Burke, president and chief executive of Omaha Public Power District.

“We have several customers right now that are putting together potential expansion projects and will utilize that (new) rate to grow,” Burke said.

Landing large industrial users could help spread out fixed costs like power lines in the utility’s service territory.

Burke said even though Facebook’s project is said to be among the most energy-efficient data centers in the world, it will still be among the utility’s largest 25 customers.

Burke said a decision on the additional wind energy could be made in May or June.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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