Article

Osage County approves ordinance on wind farm turbines

The Nature Conservancy has been an opponent of wind development in the proposed area, saying the turbines would fragment the last unspoiled prairie in the U.S., disrupting breeding grounds for prairie chickens, birds of prey, and other fauna. "This is the last frontier for the tallgrass prairie left in America," said Bob Hamilton.

PAWHUSKA - Osage County commissioners unanimously approved a wind energy ordinance on Monday, saying that regardless of whether it was enacted, companies have the right to erect the massive turbines.

"The only thing we're trying to do is to protect the county," said District 1 Commissioner Bob Jackson. "We don't have the legal authority to stop them from putting them up today if they wanted to."

The regulations have sparked controversy in Osage County, where two wind companies, TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan. - an affiliate of Italian energy giant Enel - and Wind Capital Group of St. Louis, are hoping to build two wind farms west of Pawhuska and east of Shidler on privately owned portions of tallgrass prairie.

Together, the companies would build farms totaling 300 megawatts, or about 185 1.6 megawatt turbines. The turbines will be between 360 feet and 426 feet tall from base to tip of blade, or about 55 to 120 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, base and pedestal included.

The $300 million development hinges on whether the companies can contract to sell the electricity to a utility company such as American Electric Power-Public Service of Oklahoma.... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

PAWHUSKA - Osage County commissioners unanimously approved a wind energy ordinance on Monday, saying that regardless of whether it was enacted, companies have the right to erect the massive turbines.

"The only thing we're trying to do is to protect the county," said District 1 Commissioner Bob Jackson. "We don't have the legal authority to stop them from putting them up today if they wanted to."

The regulations have sparked controversy in Osage County, where two wind companies, TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan. - an affiliate of Italian energy giant Enel - and Wind Capital Group of St. Louis, are hoping to build two wind farms west of Pawhuska and east of Shidler on privately owned portions of tallgrass prairie.

Together, the companies would build farms totaling 300 megawatts, or about 185 1.6 megawatt turbines. The turbines will be between 360 feet and 426 feet tall from base to tip of blade, or about 55 to 120 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, base and pedestal included.

The $300 million development hinges on whether the companies can contract to sell the electricity to a utility company such as American Electric Power-Public Service of Oklahoma. Neither company has a contract yet, but TradeWind's project development director, Aaron Weigel, said that the proposed location of its Mustang Run wind farm is attractive and conducive to such contracts because it is near existing transmission lines, and the area is windy and would produce a substantial amount of electricity.

"We think we have a good chance," Weigel said. "It's a good project and it has a good chance of being sold."

A federal tax credit for wind farms will expire Dec. 31, 2012. To get that lucrative credit of $22 per megawatt hour of electricity produced over the next 10 years, farms would have to be producing electricity by that date. Weigel said that means construction would begin in early 2012. The tax credit deadline could be extended, as it has been previously.

The Nature Conservancy has been an opponent of wind development in the proposed area, saying the turbines would fragment the last unspoiled prairie in the U.S., disrupting breeding grounds for prairie chickens, birds of prey, and other fauna.

"This is the last frontier for the tallgrass prairie left in America," said Bob Hamilton, director of the Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska.

The ordinance does not limit where turbines can be erected except to direct them away from occupied homes.

Hamilton said that Oklahoma's utility companies, including AEP-PSO and OG&E, both use spatial planning maps to avoid disturbing sensitive prairie chicken habitats. He suggested that if the wind farms don't do the same, they will risk being unable to sell the energy.

Landowner Gary Weyl echoed many in the county, defending ranchers' right to do what they see fit with their land, and pointing out that ranchers have long been good stewards of the land and the wildlife it supports.

"I think that Osage County needs to be a leader in new green energy," he said. "We need to get off relying on foreign oil."

Ranchers will be paid to have turbines on their land. The exact amount has not been revealed, but wind companies usually pay based on the amount of power a turbine produces, by the acre or by the installed megawatt.

TradeWind's Weigel said that the range is broad, but usually landowners are paid between $5,000 and $12,000 a year per turbine.

"If landowners get $10,000 per turbine, 50 towers have the potential for $500,000 a year," said Hamilton of the Nature Conservancy. "But if you live on the other side of the fence, you get nothing."


Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/n...

APR 5 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/30531-osage-county-approves-ordinance-on-wind-farm-turbines
back to top