Dobrinski praises impact of controversial Enid solar energy project – Enid News & Eagle

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ENID, Okla. — Despite concerns expressed by neighboring residents, the Skeleton Creek solar energy and battery storage project southeast of Enid will be a big boost to the region and Oklahoma, state Rep. Mike Dobrinski said.

“I believe the benefits this project promises to our state outweigh any minimal risk involved, which is always part of the discussion when considering any form of energy,” he said in a statement to area residents and media.

Developer NextEra Energy said the solar energy project will be expansive, with 2,000 acres of solar panels located on parcels of rural land scattered over an 8-square-mile area. The target area is south of Enid Woodring Regional Airport and a few miles north of Pioneer High School. The project is located almost entirely within Oklahoma House District 59, which Dobrinski represents.

Residents of the solar project area have been deeply divided over the project, with some land owners selling or leasing land for the solar panels and others angry at the possibility of the nearby land being taken out of ag production and having solar panels and batteries as neighbors, hurting their property values.

“As a conservative Oklahoma Republican, I respect the rights of private landowners to utilize their assets as they choose,” Dobrinski said. “This project is not an eminent domain issue. All regulatory and environmental requirements are being followed.”

Residents of the area also have voiced concerns about the danger from possible fire involving the lithium batteries and the potential for contamination of land under the solar panels and batteries.

Dobrinski said he’s heard from constituents upset about the solar project and has researched their concerns. He said the project is “not unlike high-pressure natural gas transmission lines near residential neighborhoods, the risks of which Oklahomans have historically accepted.”

Power produced by the solar project will be far more than the needs of the immediate area, prompting Dobrinski to praise its overall impact.

“Improving Oklahoma’s energy infrastructure to better manage the grid and utilize our assets as an energy exporter is the overall goal,” Dobrinski said. “The potential footprint of this project is 2,000 acres of rural agricultural land on which several private landowners have agreed to leasing arrangements.”

The private investment will be taxable, which should benefit tax-supported entities nearby.

“Like other petroleum and wind facilities throughout House District 59, this solar and storage project will generate taxes that will likely” help nearby schools, Garfield County and Autry Technology Center. “This should greatly benefit our students, parents and teachers in our local area,” he said.

Dobrinski praised NextEra’s investment in Oklahoma energy production.

“With NextEra’s $7.6 billion already invested in Oklahoma, this project helps stabilize generation by renewables, petroleum and other sources on our grid.”

NextEra has completed the wind turbine component of the Skeleton Creek project, which is generating up to 250 megawatts of wind energy, according to the company. Currently, the 250 MW solar and 200 MW battery storage components of the project are being developed southeast of Enid

He said the Skeleton Creek project was in line with Oklahoma’s “all of the above” energy approach, which embraces energy produced from varied sources including natural gas, coal, wind, solar and hydroelectric plants.

Dobrinski, a Republican from Okeene, represents Dewey County and parts of Garfield, Blaine, Kingfisher and Woodward counties in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

NextEra was one of the largest single contributors to Dobrinski’s 2020 election campaign, with the Florida-based NextEra Energy Political Action Committee donating $5,000 to Dobrinski in June 2020.

The districts of two other state representatives, Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, and John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, may include small portions of the expansive solar and battery project. Both Caldwell and Pfeiffer declined to comment on the project.

Dobrinski said the substantial amount of wind energy in Northwest Oklahoma has prompted development of a nationally recognized career training program at the High Plains Technology Center in Woodward, and he’s hopeful this solar project could lead to a similar new program opportunities at the Autry Technology Center in Enid.

“At the end of the day, I certainly value the input of all my constituents living near this project,” Dobrinski said. “I’ve investigated each concern that has been shared. The Corporation Commission will continue to monitor this project, and the Southwest Power Pool will regulate its integration with their electrical grid.”

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