Oklahoma wind farm construction will push state to No. 2 ranking, report says Paul Monies by Paul Monies

Wind turbines located on the western edge of Grady County near Minco, OK.

Oklahoma has more than 1,600 megawatts of wind capacity under construction across eight projects and is poised to become the nation’s No. 2 wind state by the end of the year, according to the latest market report released Thursday.

That under-construction total doesn’t include the massive 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher project in the Oklahoma Panhandle announced this week by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and Southwestern Electric Power Co. The 800-turbine development by Invenergy started construction last year and is expected to be online by late 2020.

The American Wind Energy Association said Oklahoma had 6,645 megawatts of wind capacity by the end of June, with the state maintaining its third-place ranking. Top-ranked Texas, at 21,004 megawatts, is followed by Iowa at 6,974 megawatts. Oklahoma didn’t add any new wind capacity in the second quarter.

“Given construction activity, Oklahoma is on pace to overtake Iowa to become the second-ranked state in installed capacity by the end of 2017,” the association said in its market report for the second quarter.

Since it was just announced, the association said the PSO/SWEPCO Wind Catcher project in the Panhandle is expected to be included in its third quarter list of projects under construction. The wind farm will cost $2.9 billion, while a 350-mile transmission tie to Tulsa will cost $1.6 billion, according to the utilities.

The Wind Catcher project joins several other mega-wind projects and is expected to be the largest single-site development in the United States. Iowa utility MidAmerican has 2,000 megawatts underway in its Wind XI project in Iowa. Power Company of Wyoming has the Chokecherry/Sierra Madre project, which is expected to total 3,000 megawatts by the time it’s finished.

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Among states, neighboring Kansas had a good first half of the year and added 659 megawatts of wind capacity, the association said in its market report. That pushed Kansas to 5,110 megawatts of wind capacity, putting the state in fifth place. Kansas wants half of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2019, a goal pushed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Nationally, there were 14,004 megawatts of wind capacity under construction in the second quarter. Another 11,800 megawatts were in what the association calls an advanced stage of development. That means a power-purchase agreement has been signed or turbines have been ordered, but the project hasn’t broken ground.

Almost 80 percent of the project pipeline were wind projects in the Midwest, Texas and Mountain West, the association said.

“The path to unlocking America’s full energy potential is clear with another strong jump in the number of wind projects moving forward,” said Tom Kiernan, the association’s CEO. “Wind energy makes our power system more reliable and resilient and protects consumers by diversifying our energy mix.”

Oklahoma’s wind farm construction continues even as the state’s tax policies change. None of the projects under construction will qualify for Oklahoma’s zero-emissions tax credit. Lawmakers ended that incentive, at 0.5 cents per kilowatt hour, for new wind projects July 1. Another incentive, a five-year exemption on property taxes, ended for wind projects Jan. 1.

A more generous federal production tax credit is still in effect but is being phased down. The federal incentive, at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, is set to phase down to 40 percent of its value by 2019 before it ends.

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