Oklahoma Wind Farm Starts Spinning

Rising high above their rocky limestone perches, 45 wind turbines turn gracefully against the Southwest Oklahoma sky. It’s technology at its latest capturing a natural resource to be used for energy by Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), the power supplier for 19 of Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives.

Anadarko, Oklahoma – January 16, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The state’s newest renewable energy venture, Blue Canyon Wind Farm, began commercial operation at noon on December 23, signaling a new era for WFEC and most of the state’s member-owned distribution cooperatives. Completing all steps involved in deeming the site commercial indicates that the wind farm is substantially complete and WFEC will officially join the ranks of others who are utilizing the natural resource of wind for energy generation. “As a power provider, we are very excited about beginning this new chapter in WFEC’s history,” WFEC Chief Executive Officer Gary Roulet, said. “We have been looking at wind as an energy option for several years and feel like this is an excellent time to become involved with such an endeavor, due in part to the volatility of the gas market. Wind, as a power generation method, has also come a long way in the past few years making it a more feasible option. We feel that we are taking a monumental step for the state through the purchase of all of the energy produced from this wind farm.” The project is developed by Zilkha, a Houston, Texas-based wind energy developer. Construction of the project’s 45 turbines was completed in late November. Immediately following this finishing point, NEG Micon, the turbine manufacturer, spent several weeks wrapping up the commissioning phase for each of the turbines. Niels Winther, senior project manager for NEG Micon, explained that this phase has several steps in the overall process, with each turbine unit typically taking two to three days to commission. During the mechanical completion phase, power supply connection cables are checked closely and all nuts and bolts are tightened and rechecked. Pad mount transformers are then energized for the next process. Next comes the starting up of each unit to put the power onto the grid, which is the last step before the unit enters the final phase – the 48-hour test. During this segment, the unit is turned on to run for 48 straight hours. During this time, if any alarms are triggered or other potential problems arise, crews analyze the system and data, make any necessary adjustments or corrections, then restart the unit for another straight 48 hours. The energy produced during the commissioning phase was delivered to WFEC. In November, more than 3,000-megawatt hours (MWh) of energy was sent from Blue Canyon. In December, over 7,000 MWh have been received to-date. Power from the Blue Canyon site is delivered to the grid via a 24-mile transmission line constructed by WFEC. This line was completed in October, with connection being made between the Blue Canyon Substation and WFEC’s Washita Switch Station, near Anadarko. This allows delivery of energy from the wind farm to WFEC’s member-owners and their customers. At a height of almost 330 feet, from the base, up the 220-foot tower, to the tip of an upright 115-foot blade, the majestic wind turbines of the Blue Canyon Wind Farm catch the attention of everyone passing through the Slick Hills vicinity. This geographic formation is just north of the Wichita Mountains and northwest of Lawton. A close-up view, just south of the intersection of State Highways 58 and 19 (11 miles west of Apache), helps bring the towers and blades into a more comprehensible perspective. The trailers that have housed offices for Zilkha, NEG Micon and other contractors have been moved out from the former construction headquarters, which is now being smoothed over and returned to its natural state. Many passersby have watched this location change from a hub of activity, with turbine parts, large cranes and other equipment being moved in and out of the area on a daily basis, to a somewhat normal setting, with a new appearance. Construction has also started on the permanent operations and maintenance facility that will be located, just north of the wind farm site. In the future, this will house all of the controls and other systems to operate the wind turbine units. A ranch house and barn architectural style is being used in order to blend in with the area. The signing of the state’s first Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) between a wind farm developer, Zilkha Renewable Energy, and a purchaser, WFEC, set in motion this massive project in January of this year. This venture created more than 100 construction jobs, as well as adding revenue to the local economy. In the months since, great strides have been made by all involved parties and contractors to reach the goal of commercial operation before year’s end. In the agreement with Blue Canyon Windpower LLC (a company formed for this venture), WFEC will purchase all of the electricity produced from this 74.25-megawatt wind energy project. While PPAs have been signed by other utilities since, the agreement between Zilkha and WFEC is the largest in the state. Blue Canyon is co-owned by Zilkha Renewable Energy of Houston, Texas and Kirmart Corporation of Wichita Falls, Texas. The 20-year purchase agreement will provide energy to WFEC’s 19 rural electric cooperatives that serve farms, rural residences, towns, and commercial/industrial customers in approximately two-thirds of rural Oklahoma. The annual electricity production from Blue Canyon will power approximately 20,000 homes. “Western Farmers saw a need to use a native, natural, abundant and renewable Oklahoma resource,” said Max Ott, who serves as president on the WFEC Board of Trustees, and as manager of Alfalfa Electric Cooperative in Cherokee. “Since the early 1990’s new technology has made wind power the fastest growing source of electricity generation in the world,” The Slick Hills area was selected for the wind project based on years of extensive studies and evaluations for wind speeds and consistency. While this area is alleged to be one of the best in the state, and even in the Southwestern United States, the rough terrain did have its challenges. Cooperative customers, who are served by a WFEC-member distribution cooperative, will soon have a chance to become an active part of this new wind energy. More information on this voluntary program will soon be made available to each of the participating cooperatives, which in turn will have information to pass on to their interested members. To find out if the cooperative in your area is served by WFEC, please visit
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