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NextEra Energy Resources scraps wind farm plans because of airspace concerns

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Wind turbines operate near Hobart in this 2013 photograph. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Wind turbines operate near Hobart in this 2013 photograph. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

Plans were dropped Friday to build two west-central Oklahoma wind energy projects, including one that had been paused by potential litigation over concerns it would interfere with low-level military training air routes, their developer announced Friday.

NextEra Energy Resources, a wind developer that has invested more than $5 billion in Oklahoma projects, said it began notifying landowners it had negotiated leases with for those projects on Friday afternoon it will not proceed.

Scrapped projects are the 220-megawatt Minco V wind farm and a 250-megawatt Crowder wind farm.

The Minco V project had been the subject of potential litigation threatened by the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission because of military air space concerns.

Through negotiations that involved Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, the parties agreed in October to try to resolve their issues before taking the matter to court.

On Friday, NextEra spokesman Bryan Garner said the company decided that both Minco V and the Crowder projects were no longer appropriate projects to pursue and said the company had withdrawn permitting requests previously filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We … worked hard to find a solution,” said Garner, adding that NextEra had negotiated not only with state authorities, but also with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Defense Department.

“We respect all their important missions and we respect the balance between national security and economic development and affordable, clean energy. Unfortunately, we could not find a solution that satisfied all stakeholders.”

Garner said both projects impact the same military training route.

Minco V, located near four previous phases of wind development the company built in Caddo County, was a $270 million project that would have had about 90 turbines. NextEra said construction would have employed 200 and it permanently would have employed between seven and 12 full-time operators.

NextEra estimated it would have generated nearly $50 million in property taxes and more than $60 million in payments to landowners during its first 30 years of operation.

The Crowder wind farm was a $300 million project in Washita County that would have taken 300 workers to build. It would have consisted of about 100 turbines capable of generating 250 megawatts of power.

The company estimates it would have generated $54 million in property taxes and $57 million in landowner payments during its first 30 years in operation, and would have been operated by a half-dozen to 10 full-time employees.

The issue of potential interference involving military training airspace and wind farms has been a hot topic in Oklahoma the past nine months as more projects have gotten built.

Earlier this month, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law that clarified approval processes wind farm developers must follow to ensure needed federal approvals from the FAA and the Military Aviation and Installation Assurance Siting Clearinghouse are obtained before construction can begin on those projects.

The statute already prohibited a wind developer from building turbine towers or other structures until after they obtained other needed federal approvals and filed those with appropriate state authorities.

Grayson Ardies, deputy director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said NextEra’s willingness to work with his agency, the strategic military planning commission and the attorney general to find a workable solution was appreciated.

“NextEra has become a good partner in making sure Oklahoma’s military air training space isn’t hampered to the point it becomes useless,” he said.

Mark Yates, a vice president with the Advanced Power Alliance, said Friday that organization also supports NextEra’s decision, noting the industry is committed to partnering with communities, landowners and the nation’s military.

“We will continue working with all stakeholders to promote economic growth and protect the rights of landowners to develop our nation’s energy resources safely and responsibly,” he said.

Attorney General Mike Hunter praised all the parties for making a good-faith effort to find a workable solution.

“Although the decision by the company to withdraw the planned wind farms is difficult, we appreciate their leadership and foresight that will help us safeguard the airspace used to train members of the armed forces,” he said.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›

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