GRDA to purchase power from local wind project

BY Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The Grand River Dam Authority has announced plans to enter into a long-term agreement for purchasing the power produced by two Oklahoma wind energy facilities — including one under development in Osage County.

In a statement released last week at its headquarters in Vinita, the GRDA revealed its intentions to purchase 136-megawatts of wind-generated power annually from Lenexa, Kan.-based TradeWind Energy, Inc. The 20-year deal will garner renewable energy that’s to be developed by a pair of TradeWind facilities — one located in Osage County and the other in Garfield County, officials said.

Mustang Run Wind Project is a 150-megawatt wind farm to be constructed on 16,000 acres of Osage prairie located 10 to 15 miles west of Pawhuska along U.S. Highway 60. Formerly called Osage County Wind, the project originally was designed to include 94 wind turbines, although officials now say the turbine count has not been determined.

A second wind-energy operation involved in the GRDA agreement is the 98-megawatt Breckinridge facility, which was recently obtained by Tradewind. It is to be built on approximately 10,000 acres near the community of Breckinridge, which is seven miles east of Enid. Company officials said the two energy sites should produce enough low-cost, renewable power to supply electricity for about 65,000 Oklahoma homes.

Combined, the two projects will be paying out approximately $50 million to TradeWind’s landowner partners, company officials said.

Over the next 20 years, the facilities should also generate in excess of $30 million in ad valorem property taxes, according to TradeWind estimates. The projects will result in approximately 20 full-time jobs once both are operational, said officials, adding that some 300 jobs will be created during construction.

With the Mustang Run and Breckinridge facilities, TradeWind will have developed or begun construction on six Oklahoma wind projects since 2011, said TradeWind Senior Vice President Sanjay Bhasin.

“Oklahoma has an outstanding natural resource in wind, but what sets it apart for development is the state’s commitment to encouraging wind energy in a way that creates jobs and spurs investment in local communities,” Bhasin added.

TradeWind has collaborated in recent months with state and local agencies, landowners and other community members as part of its efforts to advance the two wind-energy projects. Last December, after learning that Shidler Schools were experiencing transportation problems, the Kansas company leased a pair of new school buses for the rural district.

A public meeting on the Mustang Run project is set for 6 p.m. on April 10 in the AG Building at the Osage County Fairgrounds. At the meeting, the Osage County Board of Adjustment will be considering TradeWind’s application for a conditional use permit that will allow it to begin construction on the wind farm facility.

Grand River Dam Authority was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1935 to be a “conservation and reclamation district” for the Grand River waterway. The non-profit state agency was designed to be self-funded from the sale of electricity and water generated by facilities that it controls and develops.

With jurisdictional boundaries across 24 counties in northeastern Oklahoma, GRDA operates three hydroelectric facilities and manages several lakes and reservoirs. It also has a financial interest in the Canadian Hills wind farm being developed near El Reno. The 135-turbine facility in Candadian County has an electric power design output of 300 megawatts, authority officials said.

Dan Sullivan, the CEO and director of investments for the authority, said maintaining a well-balanced and diversified generation portfolio is an important goal of the GRDA.

“Addition of these wind projects will help bring the diversity we need,” Sullivan said. “The fuel options we will have in the future will continue to serve our customers well, with reliability and affordability.”

A 20-year purchase agreement with TradeWind calling for 136 megawatts of power is expected to be approved this week by the GRDA board of directors.

“We look forward to our partnership with TradeWind in this very important step toward our future,” Sullivan added.