Northern Oklahoma is getting another wind farm, one to be built by NextEra Energy in Garfield and Alfalfa counties.
The company expects the 250-megawatt Skeleton Creek farm to be operational by the end of 2019. It will consist of 90 GE wind turbines and they will be located in the northwest corner of Garfield County and the southeast corner of Alfalfa county.
Elinore Beitler, project manager with NextEra Energy told the Enid News and Eagle the farm will generate nearly $60 million in property taxes and create $60 million in landowner payments in the first 30 years of existence.
“We have a couple outstanding items, permits, things like that, (but we) should be operational by the end of the year,” Beitler said.
NextEra Energy already operates two wind projects in Garfield County, the 247.4 MW Armadillo Flats wind project and the 98.1 MW Breckinridge Wind Energy Center. NextEra Energy spokesman Bryan Garner said there are 15 existing operational wind projects in Oklahoma, along with a transmission line and other projects in development.
An open house for the Skeleton Creek wind farm is set for 5-7:30 p.m. March 26 in Central National Bank Center, which Garner said is an opportunity to inform the public about the project and to answer questions.
“It’s a way for me and Bryan and the rest of the team to here at NextEra to show our faces and to start what we hope is a relationship for at least 30 years with Skeleton Creek wind project and the local communities,” Beitler said.
At the end of the 30 years, Garner and Beitler said NextEra would love to keep the project going and to “re-power” it.
However, if the decision is made to decommission the wind farm, they said under state law the operator is required to pass a bond for decommissioning in year five to ensure nothing is simply abandoned on the property.
“Our preference is always to operate these projects and have them continue beyond 30 years, and we’ve done that in several places across the country and in Oklahoma with newer technology to extend the life of the project, (and to) extend the economic benefits in these communities,” Garner said.
NextEra Energy has been in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration and Oklahoma Corporation Commission for the wind farm, and has been in contact with Vance Air Force Base officials, Beitler said.
“We’ve also done our own outreach to Vance. We understand it’s a very important part of the community, and we want to make sure we’re not overstepping, so Vance is aware,” Beitler said. “We are working through everything with them, we have meetings with them, and they’ve been an absolute great great entity to work with, really helpful in helping us navigate the air space.”
The wind project’s location was determined through various factors, one of the largest being good, strong wind in the area. Beitler said other factors include space for a wind project, transmission access, landowner access and if they’re willing to sign on and more.
“What we’ve seen from Skeleton Creek is a resounding yes. If landowners are happy with us being there and they’re willing to operate and cooperate, and if we have transmission, and if we’ve got some good wind and a couple of other factors … then we’re a go,” Beitler said.
Another reason NextEra Energy choose to move forward with the project for this year was that the company has a customer lined up, but can’t disclose who it is at this time, Beitler said.
The two also spoke to the economic benefits of the project, including the property taxes, landowner payments and benefits to school districts. Beitler said while the project is being built, a crew of roughly 300 will be on site for construction, giving a small economic boost in the short-term.
“Wind energy is a point of pride for Oklahoma. Oklahoma has one of the best wind resources in the entire country and to be able to harvest the wind to the economic benefit of these communities is a great point of pride, and you’re seeing it all across the state,” Garner said. “Communities are able to invest in improvements in their communities they otherwise couldn’t invest in.”
Last August, Oklahoma ranked second in the country for utility-scale wind capacity and third for proportion of electricity generated from wind, according to the Department of Energy. With the upcoming construction of the Skeleton Creek wind farm and numerous other projects completed in the last year, the number is only destined to grow.
“I would simply say we’re really excited to do business in Oklahoma. We’ve invested more than $4.5 billion in the state and this is another great example of an investment we’re making in Garfield County,” Garner said. “The landowners we’ve talked to are really excited about it and we look forward to talking with them later this month about the project and hopefully build this year to benefit of (the) community.”