Wind Capital Group, which filed an application to build an 8,300 acre, 150-megawatt wind farm on the prairie west of Pawhuska on July 8, now has a contract to sell its power.
“The signing of this power purchase agreement (with Associated Electric Cooperative) is a major milestone in the development of the Osage County Wind Energy Facility,” Wind Capital CEO Ciaran O’Brien said.
“With 350 megawatts in power purchase agreements and an aggressive 12-month build schedule, Wind Capital Group is taking another significant step toward being one of the leading wind developers in the United States.”
Wind Capital, of St. Louis, wants to start building in early fall. Project maps show it has 94 turbines, a few on the south side of U.S. 60 and many more on the north side. The wind farm occupies land that is mostly owned by the Kane ranching family near U.S. 60 and Oklahoma 18, along with some smaller landowners.
Project developer Tom Green said that the contract with Associated Electric of Springfield, Mo., will allow the power to be sold in Oklahoma. Associated supplies power to Kamo Power of Vinita, which in turn supplies power to the Verdigris Valley, Indian Electric and Kiamichi electric cooperatives and other Oklahoma utilities. Wind Capital has four other wind farm projects with Associated.
“The power would be used locally in Oklahoma and we will tap into a Kamo line to flow into the grid,” Green said. “We are pleased that it would be used locally.”
Green said that Wind Capital is also working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a number of issues, most notably the location of bald eagle nests and habitat on the prairie, and on locating and avoiding American burying beetle populations. “Beetle protocols” require that the insects, which feed on carcasses, be baited away from the areas that will be disturbed by the wind development, Green said.
One of the biggest opponents to the project is the Osage Nation, which has steadfastly opposed the wind farm because of its impact on the environment as well as on oil and gas exploration. The Wind Capital project is in the Burbank oil field, an area expected to boom with shallow Mississippian horizontal wells.
On Friday, Melissa Currey, the superintendent of the Osage Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told the tribal Minerals Council that she is asking the federal Bureau of Land Management to fast-track a request that they take a position on the wind development. The tribal leadership has also discussed filing injunctions in court to try to stop the development, which it believes will interfere with its mineral rights. The tribe has no overarching surface rights in Osage County but does lay claim to the entire subsurface.
Green said that Wind Capital has tried to persuade the tribe that a wind farm will not interfere with oil and gas drilling, but that the tribe has been unyielding.
“We’ve put a lot of time and energy into our plan to make sure that they (oil and wind) are compatible,” Green said. “Although the project area is 8,300 acres, the actual footprint is 120 acres of non-contiguous land. The pads are 50 by 50. It’s not like we’re building a big lake out there. It really has almost no impact on drilling.
“We understand that most of the oil and gas companies out there have plans for future development and we are going to do everything possible not to get in their way,” Green said. “Wind is an extremely compatible land use with oil and gas, ranching and agriculture.”
The Nature Conservancy, like the Osage tribe, opposes the project but strictly for ecological reasons, including concern about the habitat of the greater prairie chicken, a bird that will not nest near tall objects.
Green said that the wind farm is eight miles from the Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
“We are not entities trying to do what is best for the environment,” Green said. “The site has so many oil facilities that it’s hardly a pristine grassland.”
Wind Capital is holding an open house to answer questions from any member of the public from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Pawhuska Elks Lodge.
The Osage County Board of Adjustments will hold a hearing on Wind Capital’s permit application to build the wind farm on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Osage County Fairgrounds.
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