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Wind: The next big energy strike?  

Northwest Oklahoma has been a location for oil and gas activity for years, but it also may be the home for the next big energy strike – wind energy.

At least four companies currently are negotiating for leases to erect wind turbines to provide wind energy. GE, TradeWind Energy, Wind Energy Prototypes and Renewable Energy Systems are working in the northwest Oklahoma area, with a number of leases obtained in the Breckinridge, Garber and Hunter areas.

Sources at Trade Winds Energy said there also has been interest in Grant County.

Garfield County Clerk Kathy Hughes said there have been more than 40 memos of lease recorded in her office. Some of the leases contain multiple names. Other area residents reported having been contacted about leasing property, but have not made up their minds. Hughes said most of the leases filed are in township 23, range 5 of Breckinridge. Most have been filed by Wind Energy Prototypes and one from TradeWind Energy. No monetary amounts are listed.

In a recent presentation to Garfield County Economic Development Alliance, Michael Grova, of Renew-able Energy Systems, said one reason Garfield County is desirable is because of OG&E Electric Services transmission lines.

Jon Blankenship, executive director of the alliance, said the companies are trying to secure leases in the county and indicate they intend to build wind farms.

“This could end up being a significant capital investment and construction jobs. Just the fact that we have interest in developing wind energy industry increases the opportunity for spinoff in manufacturing and service for that industry, such as wind towers, blades and wind energy components, as well as service,” Blankenship said.

Brian Alford, a spokesman for OG&E, said the company hopes to grow wind energy. OG&E currently purchases power from an energy farm north of Woodward and owns another energy farm north of Fort Supply.

“There are a large number of developers in northwest Oklahoma,” he said. “They are doing a lot of preliminary work to secure land for potential wind development. That’s common throughout the northwest part of the state.”

Alford said wind energy is important and has a bright future, especially in Oklahoma.

“It’s a resource we have plenty of and have the ability to bring wind as a potential growth opportunity for northwest Oklahoma,” he said.

To accomplish that requires investment in electric transmission infrastructure, which the company is doing, he said. OG&E recently announced it will build a new high-voltage line from Oklahoma City to Woodward. Later, OG&E plans to extend the line to Guymon to help facilitate development of wind energy in the state, he said.

Developers who want to build these projects must go through a process to ultimately be attached to the electrical system. They must go through regulations established by Southwest Power Pool, the regulatory transmission organization.

“It’s not just a matter of running a line through Enid. It’s a well-defined process that projects must go through before transmission lines are built,” Alford said.

That process takes about two years, said Joe Arb, of TradeWind Energy. Arb has been in the Hunter area obtaining leases for the past five months.

Several studies are involved, including feasibility, system impact and facility impact studies. They all must be completed before connecting to the 345 kilovolt OG&E line. Once the process is finalized, the company expects to work out an interconnection agreement, he said. Once on the line, the energy could go to OG&E or any of several other power companies in the state. Arb said his company prefers the power stay in Oklahoma.

Arb hopes to have about 100 lease agreements with landowners in the Hunter area encompassing 40,000 acres. The general rule is to put 10 megawatts on 1,000 acres, or 300 megawatts on 30,000 acres. Because of the topography and the need for a buffer for some of the area, TradeWind is looking at acquiring 40,000 acres, he said.

However, the leases are not a footprint of the plant. He said the actual wind farm will only encompass about 2 percent of the total area. The rest will remain available to farmers for raising crops or livestock.

TradeWind has the largest wind farm in Kansas, the Smoke Hills facility on Interstate 70. The company also has 250 megawatts in the final stages of construction.

Arb said there have been minor problems relating to wildlife. TradeWind has conducted studies in the area of the Smoke Hills facility on the effect it has on the prairie chicken. The prairie chicken went away at first, he said, but has returned. Cattle actually follow the shadow of the turbines as they turn, because the shade is cooler.

“We’re looking at northwest and north central Oklahoma, obviously because there is wind here,” Arb said. “A wind farm needs three key elements to be present: wind, transmission capacity to get the electricity to market and community acceptance.

“It’s true that Oklahoma is in a 21st century land rush and TradeWind is poised to take these projects to the finish line. We’re doing our homework,” he said.

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer

The Enid News and Eagle

29 June 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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