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‘The demand is there’

2020 Vision: Skeleton Creek construction not impeded by COVID-19, NextEra says

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Wind turbines stand in a field. NextEra Energy Resources is planning to start constructing the 250-megawatt Skeleton Creek wind power and solar project in Garfield County this spring. 

ENID, Okla. — NextEra Energy Resources’ 250 megawatt Skeleton Creek wind power project is progressing on schedule, despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Cassidy, communications leader for NextEra, said construction of the project is considered essential work and is progressing according to the time line the company had before the outbreak.

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“Our plans to begin construction on Skeleton Creek this spring have not changed,” Cassidy said. “We intend to start with the transmission line, followed closely thereafter by construction on the 250-megawatt wind site.

“During this unprecedented time, we remain committed to supporting the communities we serve,” Cassidy said. “The Skeleton Creek project will continue contributing to local businesses, supporting local charities and organizations and providing an economic stimulus during a time when it’s needed the most.”

Cassidy said all necessary precautions are being taken to protect the project’s workers during the pandemic. 

“We are currently monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and taking all precautions to keep our construction workers and the local community healthy and safe,” she said.

With work continuing, Cassidy said Skeleton Creek is “on track to achieve commercial operation by the end of this year.”

In addition to the wind farm, Skeleton Creek production also involves a 250 megawatt solar panel farm and a 200 megawatt battery facility — both of which should be completed in late 2023, said Mike Lienhard, project manager for NextEra, during a February visit to Enid.

The total footprint of the project — the wind farm, solar farm and energy storage facility — will include Garfield, Alfalfa and Major counties.

Once completed, the “largest combined wind, solar and energy storage project in the U.S.” will add 500 megawatts to the regional power grid, plus another 200 megawatts from the energy storage facility for up to four hours, if fully charged.

Taken together, Lienhard said the wind farm, solar and battery projects represent about $600 million in new NextEra energy investments in the state. 

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A solar farm stands north of Covington, with wind turbines farther East, in March. At the opposite reaches of the county, NextEra Energy Resources is planning to start constructing the 250-megawatt Skeleton Creek wind power and solar project this spring.

Lienhard briefly outlined the company’s holdings in Oklahoma and worldwide, including wind, solar, gas and oil projects in 36 states and Canada, and in five nuclear power plants in the United States, during a February Enid Rotary Club meeting.

NextEra was the top wind and solar power generator in 2019, Lienhard said, and the company now has 15 wind farms in Oklahoma, with four in development.

Thus far, NextEra has reported $5.6 billion invested in the state, generating $32.6 million a year in payroll and another $9.1 million in annual property tax revenue.

Each wind farm project supports 200-300 jobs during construction, and another 7-12 “quality, high-paying, full-time jobs” after completion, Lienhard said.

In order to help communities where those employees work, NextEra announced March 17 a $1.5 million commitment to COVID-19 emergency assistance.

The funds will be “distributed to partner organizations working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis to provide critical support to the most vulnerable members of our communities,” according to a NextEra press release.

“As the world’s largest clean energy company, we’ve responded to countless crises over the years and understand how vital it is to be there for our communities when we’re needed the most – and COVID-19 is no different,” said NextEra Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Robo. “We are steadfastly committed to doing everything we can to assist the most vulnerable in our communities as we all work through this unsettling and difficult time together. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do, and I strongly encourage other businesses to join this effort.”

It remains to be determined how much of the funds might be available in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma retains a central focus in NextEra’s portfolio, Lienhard told Rotarians in his February visit.

“Oklahoma is the most important state for us in the company right now,” he said, “because of the investments we have here.

“Oklahoma is a great state to work in,” Lienhard said. “It is the most important state in our company, because of being able to operate here, because of the work we’ve already done and because of the relationships we’ve been able to build at the Capitol.”

Lienhard said the demand for renewable energy development is only accelerating, and that will continue to spur investment in Oklahoma.

“Company-wide, the demand for wind and solar are only growing,” Lienhard said. “The efficiencies have come so far, the demand is incredible.”

The next big boom in renewable energy may be in solar, he said.

“The demand is there, it’s real, and there is going to be a very big push for solar in the next 5-10 years,” he predicted.


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“We are steadfastly committed to doing everything we can to assist the most vulnerable in our communities as we all work through this unsettling and difficult time together. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do, and I strongly encourage other businesses to join this effort.” — NextEra Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Robo

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.

2020 Vision is a special section that will publish in the Enid News & Eagle for eight Sundays in February, March and April 2020. The section is designed to feature individuals, businesses and organizations in Enid and Northwest Oklahoma that work every day for the betterment of the region and its residents. This section, which published April 5, 2020, focuses on Agriculture and Energy.

Read all sections at 2020 Vision: All stories

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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