Library from Oklahoma
Nearly every seat was filled Thursday at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's main courtroom as the agency took public comment on a cause filed by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma. The utility seeks preapproval to recover its costs associated to a large wind power and transmission project that will provide renewable energy to both its customers and those of a sister utility.
The deal was sealed after it became apparent to Clean Line that TVA had little appetite to complete a six-year-old memorandum of understanding to purchase the project’s wind power. Late last year, just weeks after TVA said it was still studying whether to sign the contract, agency President Bill Johnson said the Clean Line project didn’t make economic sense, given TVA’s flat demand and ample generating capacity.
Transmission wires could end at substation in north Tulsa County
PSO is asking the commission to grant it preapproval to recover its share of the project costs from customers when Wind Catcher becomes operational in late 2020. Its share of the project is estimated at $1.36 billion, and in testimony filed in the case, PSO estimates the Wind Catcher project would add another $78 million to customer rates in 2021.
Wind energy advocates are speaking out as lawmakers confirm one piece of their proposed budget plan includes placing a gross production tax on wind energy. The tax could be 4 percent for 36 months and 7 percent after that.
The nation's biggest wind generator, NextEra Energy Resources, has bought the Oklahoma portion of the proposed 700-mile-long Plains and Eastern Line to serve Oklahoma and Midwest customers. But for now, plans to bring wind energy from the windy areas of Oklahoma and Texas into the less-windy Tennessee Valley and Southeastern part of the United States are stalled and unlikely to be resurrected for years.
WOODWARD, Okla. — A wind turbine caught fire Tuesday morning near Woodward, Oklahoma.
“We just hate the position that we are in. We hate that this project was commenced. We hate that there wasn’t competitive bidding, which is required by the rule, one or the other,” Hunter said near the end of his argument. “We hate that eight months elapsed from the [inception] of the project until the application was filed, so we’re all being put in a position of being leveraged. If these things aren’t approved in multiple states, this project isn’t going to go forward.”
“There is no way any power transmission line coming out of the Panhandle is going to miss important prairie chicken habitat because the best prairie chicken habitat in Oklahoma is in Beaver County. There’s just no way to miss it,” she said. “It is an issue, but right now our main concerns are the bats and destroying their (hibernation area), the erosion it could cause and the idea of building a power line across this area with all these sinkholes.”
Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) hosted 11 community open houses across northern and central Oklahoma to collect valuable landowner and community input on preliminary study segments to help determine a power line route for the Wind Catcher Energy Connection.
In a unanimous decision issued in mid-September, a three-judge panel reversed and remanded a September 2015 summary judgment from the Northern District Court of Oklahoma that allowed Osage Wind to conduct excavation work in order to set up 84 wind turbines across 8,400 acres without a mining permit from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or approval from the Osage Minerals Council.
Speaking Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Lee Levy, commander of Air Force Sustainment Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Tinker, said wind turbines that rise hundreds of feet into the sky are encroaching on the flight corridors. Some of those turbines now are in the paths of low-flying planes, requiring the Air Force to abandon routes or take other evasive action.
Oklahoma paid nearly $143 million in subsidies to wind companies in 2015, between property tax reimbursements and the zero-emission tax credit, according to a study released this week.
The Denver Federal Appeals court, in a unanimous decision overturned a lower court ruling and said Enel Green, the owner of Osage Wind, had to obtain a mining permit in the construction of its wind farm in western Osage County, land controlled by the Osage Nation.
Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that would require new wind farms to get approval from the aeronautics commission, which is pushing for more oversight. Another proposal would require the state's military commission to sign off before new wind farms break ground.
Without comment, Corporation Commission Administrative Law Judge Mary Candler denied the attorney general's motion in a hearing Thursday morning. However, Candler approved another motion to have PSO pay for witness fees and other case costs for the attorney general's office, which represents consumers in utility cases.
In Friday's hearing, Assistant Attorney General Dara Derryberry said commission rules only allow preapproval for generation capacity. ...PSO couldn't ask for a waiver of competitive bidding rules because construction has already started on the wind farm. Commission rules allow a pre-construction review as an alternative to competitive bidding, but PSO didn't ask for that either, she said.
The motion, filed late Friday by Attorney General Mike Hunter's public utility division, said if the commission doesn't dismiss the case, it should make PSO pay for the attorney general's costs to represent Oklahoma consumers in the case. "...PSO's customers are at risk to bear the $1.36 billion cost of the Wind Catcher project if the commission grants PSO's requested relief."
To take maximum advantage of the federal production tax credit before it declined in 2017, project construction began last December.
A $4.5 billion wind farm and transmission line announced last week by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and a sister utility needs a quick answer from Oklahoma regulators so the project can fully qualify for federal tax credits for renewable energy.