Moving into the Great Plains -- FPL in Illinois and maybe Oklahoma

Northern Illinois and Oklahoma could both get their first taste of wind generation next year. FPL Energy is seeking approval of a project along the border between Lee and DeKalb counties in Illinois, and may soon sign another deal with an Oklahoma municipal generation and transmission organisation that would bring the first significant wind project to the state.

Lee County approved FPL's proposal to build a 60 turbine, $200 million wind farm on 7000 acres in the county. Although FPL will also seek a permit from neighbouring DeKalb County, the company's Steve Stengel will not say how large that portion of the project is. Construction in Lee County could begin as early as May, but only 25 turbines will go online in 2003, with the remaining 35 scheduled for 2004. FPL will not say what size or model of turbines it is planning to use.

Oklahoma picks winner

FPL may also be reaching an agreement with the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (OMPA) for a 50 MW wind farm in Woodward County in the state's northwest. OMPA, with 35 member cities, solicited bids for wind generation earlier this year and says it has chosen a Florida-based utility as lowest bidder. But neither FPL Energy nor OMPA will confirm that the utility is FPL. OMPA wants the wind farm to go online by June 30. OMPA's Drake Rice says the utility serves 80% of its 610 MW load with gas, lignite and hydro generation, which it owns, and hopes to eventually own the wind farm as well. The organisation has been looking at Oklahoma's wind power potential since 2000, but Drake says that only recently has the price of wind been low enough that it will not increase customer prices. OMPA also wanted to bring on "fast on and fast off" backup resources before venturing into wind, which it has now done.

FPL already has 635 MW of wind energy under development in New Mexico, California, Iowa, West Virginia and the Dakotas (Windpower Monthly, November 2002).