GUYMON – NextEra Energy Resources plans to build 57 new wind turbines across part of Oklahoma’s Panhandle as part of a project that will replace one owned by Olympia Renewable Platform LLC that was sanctioned by regulators for safety violations.
NextEra officials said this week the company closed on a deal to acquire Olympia’s rights to harvest wind energy from an area between Guymon and Hardesty for an undisclosed amount. The Public Utility Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission took a closer look at Olympia’s wind farm nearly a year ago after being notified about potential safety issues involving failed turbines at the location.
As part of the deal, the company is acquiring key transmission substations previously built as part of the project and were owned by Olympia that will move power generated by NextEra turbines onto the Southwest Power Pool’s grid.
Olympia is removing 60 turbines it owns as the company decommissions its project, NextEra Energy Resources officials said.
Amanda Sech, director of corporate communications for NextEra Energy Resources, said the company expects to pay about $32 million in property taxes to local government entities and more than $30 million in royalty payments to landowners within the Olympia wind farm’s old footprint during the next 35 years.
Sech and other NextEra officials added the transmission substations being acquired made the deal more attractive because it saves NextEra Energy Resources the time and money it would have had to otherwise spend before it could get its project’s energy onto the grid.
Regulators sanctioned previous operator
Olympia wasn’t the original owner of the wind farm, having acquired the farm from its developer, DeWind (a subsidiary of South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering), a California-based company that later fell into bankruptcy and closed.
Because the turbines were built using equipment designed and built by the bankrupt developer, Olympia claimed to experience difficulties keeping the wind farm in good working order because its only options were to strip parts from other turbines or make replacement parts from scratch.
The issue was so bad in 2020, a commission representative who visited the farm reported hearing cracking sounds as large, broken turbine blades on towers blew first one direction and then another, including above open access roads that area residents use every day.
The fear was that blades could have potentially dropped from towers and could have been carried as far as 50 feet away before hitting the ground when winds were blowing hard.
Commissioners ordered Olympia to provide it with a site safety and security plan, as well as long-term steps it planned to take to protect the general public from its hazards.
They signed off on steps Olympia took to achieve those goals just over one month ago.
NextEra’s plan adds to other projects
While NextEra Energy Resources declined to provide specifics, its representatives said this week their project at Olympia’s old Texas County location is being executed as the company develops other projects along the Oklahoma-Texas state line.
When complete, its project between Guymon and Hardesty will have a nameplate capacity of 160 megawatts using production from 57 turbines, each topped by a 2.8 megawatt GE generator.
NextEra officials said they expect to begin building those turbines in May (provided necessary permits are obtained) with a workforce numbering about 200.
They said the company will employ either three or four people full-time to operate the project once it goes online by the end of this year.
Tricia Hale, NextEra Energy Resources’ development director in Oklahoma and Colorado, said plans for the Olympia site adds another location to the company’s portfolio of renewable projects inside the state.
Currently, NextEra operates 17 wind energy centers and one renewable-charged battery storage system within Oklahoma, and it has three other projects under development.
NextEra’s business portfolio is expansive and the company has business ventures in other energy sectors across the state and nation, including natural gas.
The company was paid $429 million by Oklahoma utilities during the February 2021 winter storm, according to data released by regulators. The company was paid for its role in providing natural gas to utility providers during the severe weather event.
NextEra received payments from Oklahoma Natural Gas and PSO, according to data released by regulators. ONG is seeking approval to pass storm costs on to consumers over the next 25 years, and PSO is seeking similar approval for a plan that will increase costs for 20 years.
Since 2003, the company says it invested $6.8 billion in renewable energy projects inside the state. It pays its Oklahoma employees $37.4 million, pays land owners $15 million and pays local governmental entities $14.1 million in property taxes every year, Hale and other officials said.
“We are always looking to expand the projects we have, and we have been involved in Oklahoma for a long time. When we saw the opportunity to add this project to our portfolio, that was pretty attractive to us,” Hale said.
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