PSO buying into idea of wind power

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 12:02 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Public Service Company of Oklahoma announced an agreement Wednesday to purchase power from a third wind farm capable of producing enough electricity to run nearly 30,000 homes.

The Tulsa-based company, the largest distributor of wind power in the state, will receive up to 94.5 megawatts of electricity from the Sleeping Bear facility to be built near Fort Supply in northwestern Oklahoma.

The $130 million wind farm is set to open next spring and will be owned and operated by Irvine, Calif.-based Edison Mission Group, the fifth-largest owner of wind-energy projects in the country.

The financial terms of the purchase-power agreement were kept confidential for competitive reasons, PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said.

``As long as it makes good sense to us and our customers, we're going to be interested in wind power,'' Whiteford said.

Sleeping Bear represents the latest, high-profile wind project to break ground in Oklahoma, a state that didn't have one wind farm three years ago, but now ranks in the top five nationally in wind power capacity.

Rapid growth in the industry was helped along in part by a federal tax credit available to operators and builders of wind farms, experts said.

``The sky's the limit for wind power, as far as I can see,'' said Stephanie Buway, graduate research assistant at the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, a partnership between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. ``The western side of Oklahoma is just primed for development.''

The project is also expected to become an economic boon in rural Harper County, creating at least 110 construction and full-time jobs and aiding the Fort Supply school district, said Jaime McAlpine, president of Edmond-based Chermac Energy Corp., which developed the Sleeping Bear wind farm.

McAlpine said his firm has up to 700 megawatts worth of additional projects on the drawing board, including a facility called No Man's Land in Texas County.

PSO's other wind farms are the Weatherford Wind Energy Center and Blue Canyon II near Lawton.

PSO serves about 514,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.