NextEra Energy Resources has withdrawn plans to construct two wind farms in western Oklahoma. The decision follows Governor Kevin Stitt signing a law that ensures wind turbine construction doesn’t interfere with low-level military training routes.
Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Katelyn Howard, and with me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for joining me today, Russell.
Russell Ray: It’s good to be here, Katelyn. Thanks for having me.
Howard: Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a law that some proponents say balances the needs of both the wind industry and the military. House Bill 2118 ensures that wind turbine construction doesn’t interfere with low-level military training routes. This means wind farm operators must have approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense prior to construction. Your reporter Daisy Creager writes that following the passage of this law, NextEra Energy Resources canceled plans for construction of two wind farms in western Oklahoma that, combined, would have cost about $600 million. Can you tell us more about this law?
Ray: Well, the new law does a few things. Under the new law, any objection to development must be addressed before construction starts. It also promotes more communication between the military, regulators and the industry. Now a $1,500 penalty per day per turbine fine could be levied against the developers under the new law. And the areas of concern here include military training routes, drop zones, approaches to runways and bombing ranges.
Howard: And this law is part of an ongoing effort to protect the state’s available airspace since it adds additional provisions to those signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2018.
Ray: Yes. Last year, a bill was passed to require wind power developers to obtain a determination of no hazard from the Federal Aviation Administration or a mitigation plan from the DOD prior to construction. So, the new law passed this year will be on top of what the legislature did last year. In addition, the Legislature approved a bill establishing setbacks from military sites.
Howard: As I brought up earlier, NextEra Energy Resources dropped plans for construction of two wind farms shortly after this law was passed. What did these projects entail?
Ray: That’s right. The Minco project was a 220-megawatt project that would have used 90-wind turbines in Caddo County. The $270 million Minco project would have employed 200 during construction. Minco would have contributed almost $50 million in property taxes and more than $60 million in land owner payments. The other project, Crowder, was a 250-megawatt project that would have featured 100-wind turbines in Washita County. The $300 million Crowder project would have employed 300 during construction. Crowder was estimated to generate $54 million in property taxes and $57 million in landowner payments during the first 30 years in operation.
Howard: Now you mentioned the name of these two projects, one of them being the Minco V, which had already run into difficulties back in October.
Ray: That’s right. The Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission claimed that that project did not have proper clearance from the Federal Aviation Commission and the Department of Defense.
Howard: And while the Minco V project was on hold, Daisy writes that the Department of Defense began working on a plan to prevent the project from affecting training routes. Do you have any idea why NextEra still chose to pull these two projects?
Ray: Well, that’s a good question. The Oct. 15 deadline for the mitigation plan was extended nine times, and NextEra was allowed to proceed with construction on the approved turbines. Now we did reach out to a NextEra for comment, and they did not return our phone calls.
Howard: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.
Ray: Thank you.
Howard: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You’ll find links the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you’re there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. This includes the latest Capitol Insider report about the final week of the 2019 legislative session. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I’m Katelyn Howard.