by C.F. David
Karl Keller, of Generation Energy, speaks to a crowd about wind generation and the company’s vision for Cimarron County.
Generation Energy’s spokesperson, Karl Keller explained to a capacity crowd at the Cimarron County Show on Tuesday afternoon, how his company discovered Cimarron County. Keller explained that his company was a member of the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, and that Cimarron County Commissioner John Freeman had found them on the O.W.P.I. website and invited them to look at Cimarron County. They were excited by what they found and have applied to the Southwest Power Pool to sell electricity. “You only had one negative, no transmission lines,” Keller said. But he added that the problem of transmission lines wasn’t insurmountable.
Keller explained that Oklahoma Gas and Electric is planning to build a line from Woodward to Hitchland and have it complete by 2013. He added that the line GEI wanted would be a 90 mile 765Kv line from Hitchland. Keller advised the crowd that the immediate plans were for an eventual farm that will run nine miles west of Highway 287, just north of the Boise City Airport, to the Texas County line, all north of Highways 3 and 412, curving east northeast of Keyes.Keller told the crowd that GEI had consultants working with the city in a plan that might move the airport sometime in the future. The group plans to start with a small farm northeast of Keyes, that will sell energy to Tri-County Electric. Construction on this farm is hoped to begin in the summer of 2009. This farm would measure about four miles east to west and be about one to two miles wide north to south, with roughly 27 turbines.They hope to have transmission lines to Hitchland, Texas, in time to have construction beginning on the main farm by 2013. When totally completed it should spread over 60 to 80 thousand acres. Keller said the company had other projects planned in Kansas, Nebraska and Montana. He added that it was their plan to build and operate each of the farms, the Cimarron County project has been titled, the Black Mesa Power Project, and will be built in phases. He pointed out that the company had been gathering data for over two years and currently had five meteorological towers in place. They have begun boring for soil samples and have done and continue to do, bird and bat studies. He told the gathering that although the towers wouldn’t go that far, they had gone to Lake Carl Etling and the area around Kenton to study the bats. “That’s a long way from where the towers will be…but you have to go where the bats are,” he explained. Keller explained that in the grand scheme of things, turbine placement was important. He pointed out that houses, roads were of course important and that though the turbines could be close together side-by side, that each row needed to be set back from the other to operate more efficiently. He added that farmers with pivot systems would have to make choices and explained that land with dwindling water, or exorbitant fuel prices might think about shutting the system down and setting towers on the property instead. Keller explained that other developers would surely come into the county, and that many more turbines would eventually be built, but the admission came with a warning. “Make sure they have a plan [before you sign] we have a plan, parcels and two years of studies,” he said.He said that the company expects 50 permanent jobs, and hopes that many are filled by locals .To start the project there would be about 300 jobs. He pointed out that the county would profit from the jobs, ad valorem taxes and the disposable income from the landowners. Asked about the possible use of Eminent Domain, on such things as transmission lines, Keller admitted that might be a possibility, but said he and the company would rather pay for the rights-of-way, and avoid houses and pivots. “This line will be 90 miles long and 200 feet wide, but not necessarily a straight line. “One attendee asked if the company would ask for tax abatements, Keller responded that they were in discussion with Freeman about signing a document that would even obligate a purchaser should they sell the farm so that taxes would be paid. “It’s the right thing, the neighborly thing to do,” Keller said.