After more than a decade of planning, the Cherokee Nation announced that the Tribal Council had approved a plan to develop the largest wind farm on tribal land in the U.S. in partnership with PNE Wind USA Inc.
Development of the 6,000-acre and 90-turbine wind farm will begin immediately on 3,000 acres of Cherokee Nation tribal land in Chilocco, Kay County, Oklahoma.
Out of the total of 90 turbines, half will be based on these 3,000 acres while the other 45 turbines will be located on another 3,000 acres of tribal land belonging to four other tribes (Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Nation and Kaw Nation).
The project is estimated to generate $16 million over the next twenty years, and will add 153 megawatts of wind power to the southwest grid.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said they were already playing a significant role in the creation of green jobs, and expected to play a similar key role in Oklahoma’s wind energy sector.
Ellen Wesley, director of PNE Wind USA Inc, added that this project was significant because Cherokee Nation projects were usually privately owned, but had taken on PNE Wind USA as a partner for this project.
Chilocco was chosen for the wind farm not just because of favorable wind conditions, but also because environmental studies showed the wind farm would not impact migratory bird populations. The 1.7MW GE turbines will be more than 400 feet tall.
The Tribal Council’s Deputy Speaker Chuck Hoskin Jr. said that this was an opportunity for the Cherokee Nation to be a renewable energy leader among Indian nations. He said people talk a lot of saving the environment and conserving resources, and this project was a prime opportunity for putting words into action.
The four other tribes and PNE Wind USA broke ground on their 45-turbine project last month on Earth Day, and the construction phase is expected to be completed this summer, with the turbines operational by the first quarter of 2014.
The construction phase of the 45 turbines to be installed in the other four tribes’ 3,000 acre property will create almost 200 construction jobs. About a dozen or so permanent employees will be needed to operate the wind farm.
During the ground breaking, André De Rosa, managing director of PNE Wind USA, said that apart from generating clean energy, the wind farm would bring economic development to the area and would provide additional revenues for the tribes.
Chicago, Illinois-based PNE Wind USA is a part of Cuxhaven, Germany-based PNE Wind AG.