Apex announces Jayhawk Wind sale to power Facebook facility in Nebraska
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Apex Clean Energy announced Monday that it has sold the Jayhawk Wind project in northwest Crawford and southwest Bourbon counties to two other power companies, WEC Energy Group and Invenergy, along with a renewable power purchase agreement with Facebook.
“Jayhawk Wind will help Facebook meet its goal to support its operations in the region with 100% renewable energy and reach net-zero carbon emissions,” Apex said in a press release.
Electricity from the local wind farm will power a Facebook data center in Sarpy County, Nebraska, according to Melanie Roe, technology communications manager at Facebook. The data center near Omaha is currently operating but also still partially under construction, Roe said, and will eventually employ about 200 people.
The release notes that construction of Jayhawk Wind is beginning this week and the facility is expected to be operational by the end of the year. Last spring, the Crawford County Commission approved several agreements with Apex related to the Jayhawk project, including an agreement for payments to the county government and a development agreement that included things like restrictions on the amount of sound the wind turbines can make.
Facebook’s involvement in the deal was news to county government officials on Monday.
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” County Counselor Jim Emerson said.
“I’d think maybe they’d tell us,” he added. “I don’t know if they’re obligated to.”
Commissioner Tom Moody said Monday he “absolutely” thinks Apex should have told the Crawford County government about the change in Jayhawk project’s ownership before making a public announcement.
“I would think we would be one of the first calls they would make,” Moody said.
Commissioner Bruce Blair said he had thought there was a “for sure deal” with Evergy for the Jayhawk project to sell power generated at the wind farm to the utility company, and Commissioner Jeremy Johnson similarly said “there had been some discussion about Evergy purchasing the power that was produced through it.”
Monday’s press release noted that Facebook “stepped in as the project’s offtaker after a previous power purchase agreement was mutually dissolved.”
Johnson said that while he might have appreciated being told earlier about Facebook’s involvement in the deal, it was not entirely surprising to him that the county government wasn’t informed beforehand, given the scale of the project and how it is financed.
“This is kind of in line with that,” he said.
Large corporations like Facebook often make moves such as using green energy to power new facilities they’re building “to improve PR image,” Johnson said.
“At Facebook, we are committed to supporting our global operations with 100% renewable energy and helping accelerate the transition to renewable energy around the world,” Facebook’s head of renewable energy Urvi Parekh said in the Apex news release.
The newly announced deal marks Apex’s fourth with Facebook, following similar arrangements for wind farms in Texas, Virginia and Illinois.
“Establishing and growing strong relationships with the nation’s pre-eminent clean energy investors and power purchasers is fundamental to Apex’s core mission and to our ability to bring best-in-class renewable energy assets like Jayhawk Wind to life,” Apex President and CEO Mark Goodwin said in the release. “Because of these agreements with Facebook—a valued Apex customer—and new partners WEC Energy Group and Invenergy, Jayhawk Wind will advance the new energy economy in Kansas and generate significant long-term economic benefits for the local community.”
Gale Klappa, WEC Energy Group executive chairman, also commented on the deal.
“Our commitment to the Jayhawk project is the next step forward in our comprehensive plan to build a bright, sustainable future, serve strong vibrant customers, and continue to grow earnings from our portfolio of renewable energy assets,” Klappa said in the release.
Milwaukee-based WEC is a Fortune 500 company with over 7,000 employees and $37 billion in assets that serves more than 4.5 million customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.
Jayhawk Wind “will provide significant economic benefits for the local and state economies—including the creation of more than 115 construction jobs and 7 long-term operations positions—and will generate over $20 million in landowner payments and $27.2 million in tax revenue,” according to Monday’s press release.
In promotional documents about the project prior to approval of its agreements with Crawford County last year, Apex said Jayhawk Wind would provide more than 300 jobs during its construction phase and 30 new long-term jobs in Bourbon and Crawford counties.