NEWKIRK, Okla. - A proposed wind farm just east of Newkirk has some Kay County and Newkirk residents desperate, hoping to see the plans amended.
Duke Energy Renewables has been planning the project, called Frontier 2 Wind Power Project, with the Kay County Board of Commissioners for the past two years. The plan is to build a 350 megawatt project comprised of 70 to 80 turbines, each 599-feet tall, on several leased properties owned by 130 landowners east of the city. Ultimately, they want to sell the power to two customers, but they wouldn't reveal who.
According to the Duke Energy managing director of business development, Graham Furlong, 105 locations for the turbines have been approved by the FAA. The plan is to narrow it down to a more specific plan by the summer, and begin installation by the fall.
However, many residents who are nestled in between the proposed sites or live in the surrounding area are finding out about the planned farm for the first time.
"The thing that bothers me the most about Duke is they've been able to keep things a secret," said resident Frank Cain. He and some of his neighbors say they had no idea about the plans. When they found out about a month ago, they also found out several of their neighbors neglected to mention they were leasing their property to the company for the turbines, and that the county commission had failed to use the term "wind farm" in discussion.
"The county commission did not call it a wind farm, they said it was an 'economic development project' and they discussed it over and over again," said resident Caryl Morgan. "I've been reading the minutes from the meetings, I'm up to about 2017, and so no one knew. No one knew in this area." Morgan said the situation has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the area.
Several people News 4 spoke to said they purchased land that they wouldn't have in the area in question had they known it was the site of the imminent project.
"If you look right here where those windmills are over there, that`s where I used to live, and they put the windmills in, I sold my house," said resident Terry Willits. "Next thing you know, here they are."
Per the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's requirements, Duke Energy did advertise and conduct public meetings, but they did so in Blackwell, not Newkirk. Furlong said he they tried contacting the Newkirk paper but didn't get feedback from them whether they would be able to advertise there.
"In hindsight, I think it probably would have been better if we had done it here in Newkirk, but that's hindsight," Furlong said. "We also held two public meetings. We did one for our Frontier 2 and our Frontier 3 project, and so one of those was closer to Blackwell so we picked on location."
Now, those just catching on are asking Duke Energy to adhere to a voluntary setback of three miles from the city limits. That's the distance many community members agree would allow continued growth of the city of Newkirk, and push the turbines back far enough to affect as few people as possible. A list of concerns about living among the turbines include the noise created, the flickering shadows caused by the sun shining through the rotating blades, and an anticipated slash in property values.
But Furlong pointed out that the turbines meet the state statute that requires they be 1.5 nautical miles from public schools or hospitals. He said pushing them farther east is geographically impossible.
"We do have the Arkansas River to the east of us," Furlong said, "so there`s a limitation of how much land we have to work with."
Duke Energy officials held a meeting at the Newkirk Senior Center Wednesday evening for people to speak individually or in groups with company representatives. The idea was to answer questions and quell mounting frustration.
"We've got a little ways to go on refining things," Furlong said, "and we`ll continue to meet with the community and try to come up with the best possible project for everybody."
Afterward, people News 4 had spoken to prior to the meeting said they were just as angry, and more hopeless than before.
"They`re magical if you watch one from a distance," Morgan said, "but to live underneath it, I'm not so sure I'm going to love it."
Furlong says there are several steps left before the company can go forward with the next phase, including get approval from the county commission on driving routes for the installation.