Tapping into Oklahoma’s abundant wind
Wind power development companies are
tapping into the abundant wind resources of Oklahoma to
generate power, and a recent project—the Keenan Wind
Farm—could be as large as 350 MW when fully
built out, easily making it the largest single wind farm project in the
Oklahoma is well known for its significant wind
resources, and the state is now tapping those resources and converting
them into power for its 3.6 million residents.
The most recent project involved the
second phase of the Keenan Wind Farm, which—when fully built
out—could be as large as 350 MW, easily making it the largest
single wind farm project in Oklahoma.
CPV Renewable Energy Company, an
affiliate of Competitive Power Ventures Inc. based in Maryland, first
started work on the overall Keenan site in late 2007, negotiating
easements with landowners near the town of Woodward. The site is
slightly to the east and south of the Oklahoma panhandle.
"After a few months, we had a little
over 30,000 acres under easement, and we started looking at the project
as a multi-phase development where we would divide the site into a
first, second, and final phase, totaling 350 MW," explained Sean
Finnerty, president of CPV Renewable Energy.
"We sited the project around a good
wind resource based on our desktop investigation, followed by setting
up met towers, and the expectation that new transmission lines and a
new high voltage substation were going to be built in the area."
In mid-2008, after about a year of
development, they sold phase one of the project, a total of 101 MW,
to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OG&E), which serves power
customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas. OG&E built that
project, and it went into service in 2009. Next up: Phase two.
The multi-phase approach essentially
makes the Keenan project more do-able since, at 350 MW, it is quite
"It’s hard to go out and find a
single market for the power from a 350 MW wind farm," says Finnerty.
"Certainly it’s been done, and is do-able, but it’s more
difficult. We’ve found in our discussions with utilities that
smaller phases, such as 100, 150, or 200 MW, are much more manageable
slices of power for them. So we have designed all of CPV’s large-
scale projects that can be divided into phases somewhere in that size
Keenan II, for example, was designed
as roughly 150 MW. OG&E came out with a RFP for wind power, and CPV
was selected for a long term Power Purchase Agreement for 152 MW. They
signed the PPA in
September 2009 and closed on project financing in February 2010, with
construction following, using 66
Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines.
The project went into commercial
operation this past December.
In addition to CPV, the wind farm is
co-owned by GE Energy Financial Services and Tyr Keenan II, LLC, an
indirect subsidiary of Japan’s ITOCHU Corporation. Keenan II also
marks CPV’s debut as an owner/operator of wind farm assets,
something the company will be doing more of in the future.
While CPV approached Keenan as a three-phase development, Finnerty
noted that each phase is unique and requires very specific studies
related to its layout and direct impact on the environment. "There are
a number of early stage investigatory studies that we can do on the
entire land holdings, and we generally start with a suite of high level
environmental and engineering studies covering the entire site."
The northwest part of
Oklahoma, where the Keenan project is located, has a very robust wind
resource that is fairly consistent throughout the day. The land in this
area is used primarily for cattle grazing and agricultural land and is
Things like the meteorological program are site wide, and as the
individual phases break out, that’s when the more layout-specific
studies are implemented, he said.
"The critical issues assessment that helps set up the project and
phase-specific environmental studies are done site-wide—then we
really bear down on the individual project phases."
CPV carries out a number of environmental studies, from endangered and
threatened species on a national and state level, to being aware of
animals that may not be endangered, but are of particular local
interest. Specific to the Keenan project, they looked at bats, whooping
cranes, and prairie chickens.
"We spend a lot of time doing environmental studies," says Finnerty.
"We also do a lot of engineering studies early on to make sure we are
not impacting groundwater or wetlands. We want to understand those
impacts, if there are any, right upfront."
This being Oklahoma, there is a fair bit of Indian history in the area,
and this was included as part of the cultural and historical studies.
"That is an area that we look at and take seriously, but we did not
CPV has done wind power ventures in a number of U.S. states, and
Finnerty said that Oklahoma has been particularly receptive to wind
development. "Among utilities, OG&E has been very forward thinking
in making sure the strong wind resource in Oklahoma has been utilized,
and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (the regulatory agency) and the
environmental community have been very receptive to wind.
"It’s been a great place to do business from a wind
In terms of wind specifics, he says the northwest part of Oklahoma has
a very robust wind resource that is fairly consistent throughout the
day. "It’s a good place to locate a wind farm." All three phases
of the Keenan project share these positive wind attributes.
The site, south of the town of Woodward, is lightly populated. The land
is used primarily for cattle grazing and agricultural land and is
slightly rolling. "It’s not complex terrain," says Finnerty.
"It’s very suitable for construction, and there is good geography
for delivering and sorting equipment and getting construction done on a
relatively easy and safe basis."
The Delaney Group, owned by consulting and engineering services company
Tetra Tech Inc., was the general contractor on Keenan II. They were
also hired by OG&E as the general contractor for phase one of
Keenan. "They were experienced in the area, and they knew going in what
to expect," says Finnerty.
As the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor, The
Delaney Group’s scope of work included full EPC of turbine access
roads, turbine foundations of concrete and rebar, the electrical
collection system, substation, transmission lines, and the operating
and maintenance facility. They also provided support services for
Siemens during their turbine erection process.
Delaney used essentially the same team that constructed the Keenan
phase one project.
According to Delaney, Keenan II was the first time they managed
document control through a Microsoft SharePoint site, which acted as a
repository for all information related to the project. Everything, from
document transfer and drawing archives to Plan of the Day sheets,
meeting minutes, and overall project schedule, was uploaded and
available to the customer, CPV Renewable Energy, and offsite management.
During the past two years, Delaney has completed construction services
on 19 wind construction projects valued at more than $340 million.
These projects support nearly 1,700 MW of power, involved over 1,000
foundations, and over 600 turbines installed in New York, Alaska,
Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Texas, Idaho, and Oregon.
Delaney is part of the Tetra Tech family of companies, which has
experience on more than 250 wind projects in 34 states and Canada,
totaling more than 20,000 MW of wind power generation.
Finnerty reports that there were the usual wind/weather challenges to
deal with during the construction process. It really goes with the
territory that a contractor is going to encounter high winds on a wind
power project, but both The Delaney Group and Siemens did a great job
of working around the weather, says Finnerty.
"When you build these projects, safety is a primary concern," he says.
"You want to make sure that you are always operating in a safe
environment, and that is goal number one. The Delaney Group did a
fantastic job in running a safe project for us during construction; I
don’t think we had any lost time due to accidents. Kudos to them
for doing a great job."
While The Delaney Group knew what to expect construction-wise, CPV was
quick and early to involve the town of Woodward and inform residents
about what the project involved. "It has a very involved community, and
a community that understands the balance between business and progress
and preserving the environment—it’s a good community to do
business in," he said.
Finnerty explained that CPV engages, on several levels, the communities
where it is building wind farms.
"These are long lived wind power assets, so we need to be a good
neighbor and be a partner in the community. We’re going to be
there 20 or 30 years, so we want to be part of the fabric of that
"We also understand that we are guests when we first get there. With a
wind farm project, our folks are sitting down with landowners,
explaining the project and what our objectives are, and the pros and
cons of the projects. We believe in sharing total information with
landowners and the other stakeholders in the community. We don’t
sugarcoat things. We want them to have the facts.
CPV Renewable Energy Company
closed on project financing of Keenan II in February 2010, with
construction following, using 66 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines. The
project went into commercial operation this past December.
"We’re very forthright with the landowners about the potential
benefits they receive, the impacts during construction, and, in some
cases, the impacts to their farming operations if they are doing row
The company starts this process early, to build support with
landowners. They also reach out to local groups, be it the Rotary Club
or 4-H, to explain what their wind projects are all about.
Community buy-in is crucial to CPV, says Finnerty. "We’ve found
that we have been very successful in building support for a project
early on doing it this way. We’re interested in building a
relationship with the community. We’re not interested in going
into a community and forcing a power plant on them, whether it’s
a wind or natural gas powered plant." CPV also builds natural gas power
As with its other construction projects, CPV and its contractor worked
to source materials locally, if possible. In the case of Keenan II,
there was a batch plant on site, so gravel and concrete were purchased
The northwestern part of Oklahoma has a lot of oil and gas development,
so a lot of the construction systems infrastructure is already in
place. "Obviously the needs are not identical between a wind
construction project and the oil and gas business, but there is enough
of an overlap that you have a labor pool and the suppliers who work
with industry, such as crane suppliers and sand and gravel operations
nearby. We were able to source a lot locally," says Finnerty.
CPV dealt with a number of landowners to gather the acreage required
for the overall project. There is a mix of medium to large landowners
in this area of Oklahoma—some had holdings of several thousand
acres, while others had 80 or 100 acres. There was no single,
predominant landowner to deal with in the overall Keenan project.
CPV entered into an agreement with the county that involved the company
upgrading some of the roads they were using and also making what
Finnerty termed a "sizeable" contribution to help with the upkeep of
the local road system.
The Southwest Power Pool approved the construction of new transmission
lines and a large substation; the latter was almost adjacent to the
Keenan II project.
So where to from here for CPV, now that Keenan II is complete? Although
there is no firm timeline, Keenan III is on the horizon.
The 10-year-old company, which was founded by OG&E veterans Doug
Egan and Gary Lambert, also has a number of other wind and thermal
power projects on the go.
They have also been busy being asset managers.
"We’re still very involved in project development, but
we’ve also moved into providing asset management services to
lenders," says Finnerty.
Following the collapse of Enron and the merchant power market, a number
of equity sponsors of power projects were either foreclosed on or
basically handed the keys to power plants back to the debt
providers—and walked away from power generating assets.
"We stepped up and suggested to some of the lenders that we would be
able to go in and manage those projects on their behalf, and that has
become a very good business for us," says Finnerty. "We now manage
almost 5,000 MW of generation across the U.S. on behalf of
non-traditional, non-utility owners, such as hedge funds."
As Finnerty puts it, CPV is not out there "turning the nuts and bolts"
at these power plants, but they manage contractors, fuel purchases,
load documents, and oversee the capital expenditures and Operations and
"It actually gives us good insight into various power markets. It also
helps us to understand what the various decisions we make on the
development side translate into on an operating project—it helps
make us better developers."