PAWHUSKA – Continuing efforts to build a wind-energy facility west of Pawhuska, a Kansas company will be seeking to advance its plans at an April 10 public hearing before the Osage County Board of Zoning Adjustment.
Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., recently filed an application for a conditional use permit that it needs to construct the Mustang Run Wind Project, a multi-turbine facility to be located along U.S. Highway 60 from approximately 13 miles west of Pawhuska to near the Oklahoma Highway 18 junction at Burbank.
On its company website, Tradewind states the Mustang Run will encompass 16,000 acres. It is listed as a 150-megawatt project that is “in development.” Final specifications for the project are expected to be presented at the public meeting, which is set to begin at 6 p.m. in the Ag Building at the Osage County Fairgrounds.
The requested permit is required under an Osage County wind-energy ordinance approved three years ago when another company was proposing construction of a similar facility along the same stretch of prairie. In August 2011, the county zoning board granted a conditional use permit to Wind Capital of St. Louis for its proposed Osage Wind project.
Osage Wind called for a 94-turbine, 150-megawatt facility to be built on the leased prairie land. TradeWind purchased the Wind Capital project last September but the permit approved and purchased for Osage Wind expired shortly after the sale was completed. Electricity generated by the facility would be enough to provide power for 45,000 homes, the company said.
The original proposal drew considerable resistance from the Osage Nation and other Native American groups. One area of concern focused on the possibility that construction could cause irreparable damages to sensitive Native American cultural sites. (Historically, the area was considered primary buffalo-hunting grounds.)
Wildlife and environmental organizations joined opposition forces in consideration of threats which the development could pose to bald eagle and other bird populations in the area. The eagle also is sacred to the Osages and numerous other American tribes.
The Osage Nation filed was unsuccessful in blocking the Wind Capital project through a lawsuit filed in federal court.
At the time of the project’s sale by Wind Capital, Osage Nation Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse said the tribe intended to remain firm in its opposition. BigHorse currently serves as Osage Principal Chief.
“The Osage Nation is not opposed to renewable energy and in fact has plans to utilize renewables at our tribal headquarters,” BigHorse said. “Our dispute is over placing these large scale wind development projects at inappropriate locations – ones that will harm eagle populations and could decimate significant archaeological sites.”
BigHorse also has cited the foreign-ownership of the wind-energy companies. Wind Capital was a subsidiary of an Irish corporation. TradeWind is an affiliate of Enel North America (EGP-NA) part of the Enel Group, a multinational conglomerate based in Italy.
Oklahoma is now No. 6 in the nation in wind-generated electricity capacity. The western half of the state – where several facilities have already been built – is considered prime wind-potential areas due to being located in “America’s wind tunnel.”
The Sooner State also has drawn attention from wind-energy developers because of policies enacted that were considered more supportive of the wind industry than what was found in neighboring Kansas and Texas. Such policies included a five-year property tax exemption and a production tax credit.
Recently, however, the Oklahoma Legislature began serious consideration of a three-year moratorium on any new wind energy projects east of U.S. Interstate 35. The proposal – which is sponsored in the House by Rep. Earl Sears of Bartlesville – is designed “to allow for further studies of certain wind energy-related issues.”
As currently proposed, the moratorium would not affect wind-energy development on the west side of the state. It also would exempt projects that are already under construction.
Despite its location on the eastern side of the state, Mustang Run probably would be exempt from any moratorium, according to state officials. Because of the more-than-three-year history of the Osage County project, it is generally considered to be already under construction, the company said.
Nonetheless, Tradewind Energy Executive Vice President Frank Constanza said the company would be “very, very adversely impacted” by a moratorium. In addition to two wind-energy facilities in Kansas (one near Salina and another near Howard), Tradewind has another operational Oklahoma wind farm between Hobart and Gotebo. It has other projects under development in Oklahoma, as well as in Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding