A new rule takes effect Aug. 1 that will provide the Oklahoma Corporation Commission with additional dollars to help regulate the development of wind energy resources in the state.
The rule requires owners of wind energy facilities to pay the agency $2,000 annually per facility to help compensate for its oversight responsibilities. With 58 operational wind farms that are not owned by a state-regulated utility, the fee initially is expected to generate $116,000 annually.
The rule also requires developers of proposed wind energy facilities to pay the agency $5,000 whenever they submit notices of their plans to build a new project.
Brandy Wreath, director of the commission’s Public Utility Division, has said it costs his staff about $300,000 annually to regulate the industry. And while the amount the fee will generate won’t totally offset that cost, Wreath said he expects it will help significantly.
That is because the division’s most labor-intensive oversight of facilities is needed at the front end of proposed developments, when regulators must be sure the projects meet prescribed setback and military air space requirements, Wreath said.
“That is the majority of the work,” he said. “While there is a lot of desk time, we also meet with affected land owners to talk about siting issues and easements, or meet with a city council or school board to discuss compliance issues.
“We also are gearing up to more closely monitor wind farm construction issues,” he said, noting the law approved this year sets fines for prematurely starting construction before appropriate federal clearances for projects are obtained.
“What we are hoping is it will help us have the tools in our chest that will enable us to respond quickly whenever an issue arises,” Wreath said.
As adopted, the rule requires the annual fee to be paid on each project by March 1, concurrently with when project owners provide the commission with operational data related to each project’s nameplated capacity and production.
Gov. Kevin Stitt approved changes to the commission’s Rules of Practice, which include the fees, earlier this year. Owners of individual turbines that generate power consumed by a home or business aren’t required to pay the annual fee.
It also won’t have to be paid by Oklahoma-regulated utilities that own wind projects in the state, given they already pay fees to the division as part of their annual utility assessments.
Oklahoma is the third-top producer of wind energy in the country.
The Advanced Power Alliance reported earlier this year that wind developers in Oklahoma have invested $20 billion and paid out $51 million annually in land leases to property owners across the state, just the past decade.
The alliance also published data showing that wind generates 36% of the electricity created in Oklahoma to supply energy to the Southwest Power Pool and that 97% of that is consumed by Oklahomans.