Panhandle land owners may strike gold in the wind energy business, or they may find a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
This is the warning experts in the field of wind energy want to deliver to locals.
Shawn Lepard of Lepard Consulting in Oklahoma City addressed the issue during Panhandle Ag Days. Lepard shared what he has learned since being employed by the City of Guymon to research the industry, and the development of a line through the Panhandle to deliver energy generated by wind turbines.
Land owners need to educate themselves on the legal process of developing wind energy, development costs and the developers themselves.
“As landowners, you all need to work with the developers,” Lepard said, discussing land leases. He also added that the best thing a land owner can do is “understand the role of the developer.”
As a developer, they must first secure land rights from the landowner with a lease agreement.
Next, they will collect wind data and arrange for an electrical interconnection from the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). This process can take up to two years and cost $160,000.
The SPP is a regional transmission organization mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale prices of electricity which has 48 members across eight southwestern states, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
Arranging for an interconnection with SPP takes three steps.
First the developer must submit the request for an interconnection study priced at $10,000 and lasting eight to nine months.
Secondly, they request a $50,000 impact study that lasts eight to 10 months.
Third is the facilities study to check turbines, which costs $100,000.
Lepard says the $160,000 cost for studies is one reason why a landowner must find out if the developer has adequate financing, not to mention the cost of actual wind turbines – which only a handful of manufactures sell.
Another key point is identifying the markets for wind energy, which include surrounding states that will need the Panhandle’s power.
“Do they have a buyer?” Lepard said of the developer seeking land.
Lepard pointed out that if a developer leases land, then cannot secure funding or has not found a buyer, two years later the leasing landowner may have nothing, while the landowner down the road is already profiting from wind turbines developed by a different company.
He says this is why it is better to see if they “have a proven track record.”
While looking at their projects, remember to look for and ask if they have other projects which are more important than yours and may delay development.
Lepard said to evaluate the economics of the project so one gets the most for their money, yet stays competitive.
While the exact placing of the transmission line from Mooreland, Okla., to the Panhandle has not been decided, Lepard says a preliminary report by the legislative Task Force established by SB 1764 says the line should be built and ready for 1,000 megawatts of power by 2010. A final report will be submitted by the Task Force on Jan. 31.
“Don’t worry about where the line will be built in the Panhandle,” Lepard says. “Developers will build lines to it.”
Presently, the state of Oklahoma only has 600 megawatts of wind power, but expected legislation across the United States with federal mandates for green energy, including wind energy, have developers moving quickly to secure land rights.
Lepard says landowners may contact him with questions via the City of Guymon.
A wind energy conference will also be held by PREDCI on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Pickle Creek with various experts on hand for landowners’ questions. For more information on the conference, contact Betty Viljoen at 580-338-8500.
By Miranda Gilbert
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