Public Service Company of Oklahoma announced a new set of public open houses along with a possible route departure for the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project to prevent possible delays in construction.
The line of 360 or more miles is proposed to connect the 800-turbine Wind Catcher wind farm planned for the Panhandle to a substation at Tulsa and then points south supplied by PSO sister company Southwestern Electric Power Co. in eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Early in January, PSO announced that original route plans were nearing completion and set public meetings to help with fine-tuning the route from Pawnee directly east toward a planned substation in the Sperry area. That proposed route and those public meetings remain in place, said PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford.
“We continue to move forward with our proposed route but must explore these options to ensure we complete the project on time and deliver Wind Catcher’s full benefits to customers,” John Harper, PSO vice president of external affairs said in a news release. “In the end, we want to make sure that we made the best decision.”
On Friday, PSO announced that it has added for consideration routes that sweep south from the original route in Noble County (west of Pawnee) toward Drumright and then take one of two southern approaches into the Tulsa area. One would connect to an existing PSO substation at its Jenks power plant and would involve upgrading existing lines. The other would involve upgrades to existing lines to cross the Arkansas River between Mannford and Sand Springs and connect at the originally planned substation near Sperry, Whiteford said.
“We would still prefer that more northerly route, but this is a way of hedging our bets, so to speak,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to get into a jam on the northern route while not having considered other route options.”
Notices have been mailed to landowners along the new possible routes in Noble, Pawnee, Creek and Tulsa counties, and additional open house meetings are planned for February, he said.
The $4.5 billion project includes the line and the wind farm, which would be firsts of a kind for Oklahoma, and developers have estimated great economic benefits, power savings and jobs creation. The wind farm, said to be the largest in America and second-largest in the world, is under development in the Panhandle, near Guymon, by Chicago-based energy giant Invenergy.
Planning and preparation for construction of the 2,000-megawatt wind farm and associated 360-mile power line are underway concurrently. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission wrapped up eight days of public hearings on the projects on Thursday in Oklahoma City. Decisions from the commission are not expected until later this spring, Whiteford said.
The project is planned to be complete and operational by the end of 2020.
About 70 percent of the energy is bound for SWEPCO clients in eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, Whiteford said.
With the addition of Wind Catcher, PSO clients would be receiving 40 percent of their energy from wind, according to PSO fact sheets.
The power line would feature 140-foot-tall power line structures placed every 1,000 to 1,500 feet on a 200-foot right-of-way. Portions of the line will involve existing rights-of-way where power line structures would be upgraded, Whiteford said.
PSO has estimated that the Wind Catcher project would add $78 million to customer rates in 2021, but its representatives also have said the utility expects those costs to be offset by lower energy costs, as well as a federal tax credit for wind generation if it is completed on schedule.
The company has estimated that the project will generate $7 billion in customer savings and $300 million in property taxes over the 25-year life of the project, 4,000 jobs for construction plus 4,400 annually and 80 permanent jobs once it is operational.