Councilor sees opportunity in wind farming

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(MCT) – Wind power is blowing across the country, and at least one Tulsa city councilor hopes to harness some of it from a proposed Cherokee Nation wind farm.

“I think this is exactly what we need,” Councilor Dennis Troyer said about capturing the renewable energy source to reduce the city’s power costs.

Troyer is driving the city’s research into wind energy. He said he was just following the lead of former Councilor Roscoe Turner, who raised the issue two years ago.

“I’ve been interested in this ever since I came into office,” Troyer said. “But we got so far with it, and it just hung out there in limbo with nothing happening.”

When Mayor Kathy Taylor realized the council was serious about wind energy, she said, “we got back on track with the effort.”

Brett Fidler, the city’s director of sustainability, said the city and tribe are in the early stages of researching the feasibility of a wind energy partnership and are to meet next month. “This is all very preliminary with many steps to be worked out. No decisions have been made.”

The city gets its electricity from AEP-PSO, but creating a partnership among the city, tribe and power company “could be a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.

The city first needs to undergo an energy audit of all of its facilities, Fidler told councilors during a recent presentation on the city’s wind energy plan.

“The city recognizes the advantages of renewable energy,” he said. “It not only would reduce the carbon footprint but help the city reach its sustainability goals and save money long term.”

Taylor supports any effort that produces energy efficiency, cost savings and cleaner air.

“I have to give Councilor Troyer credit for this effort,” she said. “This effort could add to the city’s energy inventory of what we have to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and the impact on the environment.”

Fidler told councilors that the city’s goals are to cut energy use by 20 percent by 2011 and to buy 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2012.

The city may have an opportunity to buy wind energy from the Cherokee Nation, which plans to build a wind farm on land near Newkirk in Kay County, he said.

Amanda Clinton, a spokeswoman for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said wind patterns in that area are favorable for producing power, and the tribe is researching the feasibility of transmitting that power to northeastern Oklahoma.

“It’s a very exciting time to see everyone interested in going green, and we’re excited about exploring all of those options,” she said.

Fidler said that because AEP-PSO owns the distribution system, any power deal between the city and the tribe would need its agreement.

Stan Whiteford, a spokesman for American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, said it has contracts with three wind farms to reduce the use of natural gas and coal to generate electricity. Construction of two more farms should be completed by year’s end.

He said PSO is the state’s largest distributor of wind power.

Fidler told councilors that if the city were to buy wind power from the tribe, it likely would seek to lock in a rate for 20 to 25 years. That, he said, should generate long-term savings as energy produced with fossil fuels becomes more expensive.

He said the city was told the tribe could provide “all the power we needed, but we’re probably only interested in 75 to 80 percent.”

He stressed the importance of the energy audit in determining how much wind power the city might buy.

The audit would determine the city’s current energy use; identify and apply potential efficiencies; and then determine what the city’s power need would be.

The audit is also needed for other purposes, Fidler said. Mainly, it would enable the city to track greenhouse gas emissions, including what is generated from electricity.

The hope is to have an audit completed by the end of the year, he said.

Funding for the audit has not been determined. Options include federal stimulus funding from the city’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant or the use of the performance contractor Johnson Control, which has a pending memorandum of understanding with the city for the work.

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