Wind farm projects continue

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Wind farm projects continue

A Kansas-based energy company has received permission to use rural Osage County roads during construction of a wind-turbine facility it’s planning to build 12 to 15 miles west of town.

Osage County Commissioners approved a road maintenance proposal last week for the Mustang Run Wind Project, a 67-tower wind farm proposed by Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, Kan.

Mustang Run’s turbines — which are to stand nearly 500-feet high — will be spread over several thousand acres of leased prairie land east of Burbank and south of Shidler. The new project is to be built adjacent to Osage Wind, a recently-completed 150-megawatt facility located along U.S. Highway 60 just west of the Mustang Run site.

Osage Wind was finally put into operation about a month ago, culminating nearly four years of controversy fueled by a coalition of opponents that included Osage County property owners, nature groups, wildlife organizations and the Osage Nation.

The Osage Wind project includes 84 turbines — each measuring 420 feet in height (from the ground to its highest blade) — which are scattered over an 8,400-acre leased tract between 16 and 20 miles west of Pawhuska.

Mustang Run’s road-use request was submitted to commissioners on July 6. After the proposal was reviewed by county legal staff, representatives of the energy company attended last Monday’s meeting to formally seek its approval.

Tradewind official Aaron Weigel said the Mustang Run construction is expected to primarily affect a six-mile stretch of Foraker Road — a county thoroughfare running north from a Highway 60 junction approximately 12 miles west of Pawhuska.

Weigel said videos will be made of county roadways before and after the project is built. Those videos can be used at the conclusion of construction to help county officials determine if road maintenance is needed as a result of the project, he added.

While all necessary repairs will be paid for by Tradewind, Weigel said he believes damage to the roadways will be minimal.

“I think there will be less impact than there had been with the other project,” said Weigel, who also was involved with the development of Osage Wind.

Kathryn Pakdel, assistant developer for Mustang Run, said Tradewind is committed to completing the project by the end of 2016.

“We’re moving forward in the hope that we will be able to develop it within the next year,” Pakdel said, adding that the company intends “to begin construction as soon as we possibly can.”

Weigel said he anticipates the two Osage County wind-energy facilities will be almost indistinguishable when the second project is completed.

“They will overlap, somewhat, so I don’t think you’ll notice where Osage Wind ends or Mustang Run begins,” said Weigel, who also was involved with development of Osage Wind.

Mustang Run was developed by Tradewind Energy shortly after the company purchased Osage Wind from its original developers in 2013.

Later, with legal controversies continuing to surround the Osage County wind projects, Tradewind turned Osage Wind over to Enel Green Power N.A. — a multinational energy corporation with which Tradewind is affiliated.

In March 2014, after opponents of both projects turned out in force for a public hearing on Mustang Run, the second development was denied a conditional-use permit it needed to begin construction.

Tradewind appealed the Osage County Board of Adjustment’s decision denying the permit. Later, a ruling on the appeal — which had been favorable to the wind farm development — was likewise challenged.

Pakdel told commissioners that Tradewind is prepared to proceed with construction of Mustang Run even though an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling is still pending on the permit issues.

Completion of the project in 2016 would allow it to receive some significant state tax credits that are scheduled to expire at the end of next year.