A proposed $2 billion transmission line could transform the Oklahoma Panhandle into a national wind energy hub.
As reported by Joe Wertz for State Impact, a reporting project of National Public Radio, the Oklahoma Panhandle is home to very few wind farms, despite being one of the state’s richest sources of wind energy. However, developers are now contemplating large investments in the form of the Plains and Eastern Clean Line that could change all that.
The Plains and Eastern Clean Line would transmit high-voltage direct current (HVDC) instead of alternating current, the type distributed by most transmission lines. If built, the HVDC line would act as a wind power superhighway, moving electricity some 700 miles from turbines in the Panhandle, west to Memphis, Tenn. where it would connect to the power grid in the southeastern United States. As proposed, the 600-kV line would be capable of transporting 3,500 MW of wind power.
Clean Line Energy Partners, the Houston-based company hoping to build the line, has public utility status in Oklahoma, but the project still needs approval from the federal government. The project faces opposition in Oklahoma and along the route in Arkansas because of the possibility that the company might use eminent domain to obtain land.
Vicki Ayres-Portman, director of the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition, told State Impact she is eager for Guymon to become a wind hub and attract new jobs and investment, but that she worries Oklahoma landowners could miss out on lucrative wind leases if incentives are trimmed too much. “Oklahoma, unfortunately, has been kind of a yo-yo, really ever since wind energy tax credits came on,” she says.
Others contend that Oklahoma’s incentives are working and have attracted turbine projects that otherwise would have been built in Nebraska or Kansas. The expiration of the federal Production Tax Credit at the end of 2014 has increased the role state-level incentives play in influencing wind companies when they are siting turbine projects, Ayers-Portman said.
Even if the wind power superhighway is approved and built in Oklahoma, Ayers-Portman says the electricity from turbines could start on either side of the border. “If Oklahoma does away with the tax credits, “ she says, “and Kansas and Texas still has a lucrative tax credit package or incentive package, then Oklahoma is going to miss the boat.”