BIXBY — The Bixby City Council withdrew its opposition to the Wind Catcher Energy Connection power line project Monday evening after Public Service Co. of Oklahoma presented an alternate plan to not only use existing right-of-way through the southern part of the town but to rebuild that route with smaller towers.
Instead of building a new substation in Bixby, one would be constructed “at least 10 miles” to the west, said PSO President and COO Stuart Solomon.
That would put the substation somewhere south of Glenpool or Sapulpa.
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“That location is yet to be determined,” he said.
Wind Catcher is a $4.5 billion project that includes a 300,000-acre wind farm to be built in Cimarron and Texas counties with a 350-mile 765kV transmission line and sub station that will connect to the power grid at Tulsa.
The wind farm would be the largest in the U.S. and the power line would be the largest west of the Mississippi.
It would supply power to PSO customers in Oklahoma and Southwestern Electric Power Co. customers in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project is $1.39 billion.
“To get those 765kV lines and that substation out of our city or beyond our fence line is pretty huge to me,” said Bixby Mayor John Easton.
“This is a big win,” said Bixby homeowner Maurice Storm, who represented four families who live on the formerly proposed route and initially raised objections and started a “No Wind Catcher” movement.
“We got together, seven or eight weeks ago and put together a little group. We met at Greg Ganzkow’s realty office in Bixby and we came up with a plan and within three days we were on TV, in the newspaper, we had a web site, we had signs and had a Facebook page. We organized and had a group of people who were committed to stopping this thing and we did it. It’s kind of hard to believe.”
Storm said he still feels bad for some other landowners and communities across Oklahoma but said it was only right that the Bixby council should drop its objections now that the plan has been changed within the city limits.
“A lot of people heard us and I think it raised awareness all across the state,” Storm said. “Maybe that will help other people rise up and push it out of their areas.”
Solomon said routing of the line is an ongoing challenge, especially near populated areas, and that engineering teams have continued to evaluate options.
Engineers with PSO parent company American Electric Power worked on the issue and determined late last week that a new technology called Breakthrough Overhead Line Design, or BOLD, which is proprietary to AEP, could be used to route wires through Bixby.
“Visually it will be an improvement over what is there today and it will be within the existing right-of-way as well,” he said.
According to illustrations Solomon shared with the Council, the single-pole structures would still offer the same ground clearance with the lowest lines still more than 100 feet over the ground, but a second tier of lines would not be as high as existing lines.
The single-pole structures and arms have a profile similar to that of an umbrella.
With a substation built to the west, only 345kV lines would be required through Bixby instead of the larger 765kV lines required to carry power between the substation and the Wind Catcher wind farm under construction 350 miles away, near Guymon.
After the presentation, some discussion and some comment from a few Bixby residents who said they still object to the project, the council — noting its responsibility ends at the city line — passed a motion to withdraw its request of one week ago to seek a delay of a Corporation Commission hearing set for July 2 and withdraw its objections to the Wind Catcher project.