A Clean Energy Powerhouse on the Plains
September 20, 2023
How Olsson helped create a world-class wind energy project in Oklahoma
Three projects, nearly 1.5-gigawatts of electricity, approximately 500,000 homes powered by the wind.
And one significant step toward a clean energy future.
There's no shortage of impressive numbers behind the North Central Energy Facilities in Oklahoma, one of the largest onshore clean energy projects in the world. Owned by American Electric Power (AEP), the project will save $3 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years for customers of AEP subsidiaries in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
Olsson helped bring the project online.
Invenergy, a leading global developer of sustainable energy, relied on us to assist with the development of the Sundance, Maverick, and Traverse wind facilities. Collectively, the projects represent a $2 billion economic investment that put more than 500 turbines across parts of seven counties in north-central Oklahoma. The three facilities generate 1,484 megawatts of clean power.
Our civil and geotechnical engineers, surveyors, biologists, and environmental compliance professionals provided key services for the projects, which are a milestone in our renewable energy portfolio.
“We are proud to have helped Invenergy and our project partners complete all phases of the North Central Energy Facilities,” said Amanda Miller, energy subject matter expert for Olsson. “Collectively, these projects are bringing nearly one-and-a-half gigawatts of renewable, carbon-free energy to tens of thousands of AEP customers. North Central Energy truly represents a landmark achievement.”
58,904 homes powered
Olsson services: stormwater auditing and compliance, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) wetland and stream delineation, environmental compliance and inspection, GIS mapping, geotechnical and special investigations.
84,952 homes powered
Olsson services: ALTA survey, civil engineering, culvert design, 3D topography modeling for site layouts, intersection design, DOT permit exhibits, erosion control plans, implementation of best-management practices, traffic safety devices, stormwater auditing and compliance, USACE wetland/stream delineation, environmental compliance/inspection.
295,704 homes powered
Olsson services: avian and bat surveys, biological habitat assessments, cultural resource surveys, stormwater auditing, USACE wetland and stream delineation, environmental compliance and inspection, stormwater auditing and compliance, GIS mapping, geotechnical and special investigations.
Our Survey team was responsible for completing American Land Title Association (ALTA) surveys for the Maverick project area that encompassed more than 100 square miles. Our surveyors located section corners, plotted existing deeds and easements, and identified utility locations.
It was a massive undertaking that involved extracting data from aerial photography, topographic mapping, planometric drawings, and GPS. The ALTA survey was critical for Invenergy to complete title work so their staff could focus on detailed project design and construction.
On the Maverick project, our General Civil team designed dozens of access roads that connect turbine sites to county roadways. That, in turn, required the engineering of culvert placements at points where access roads cross drainages. And our technical staff prepared erosion control plans for both the roads and individual turbine sites.
Our civil engineers also secured permits from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to install traffic control devices at key intersections and roadways. The roads were used by the wide-load, long trailers, cranes, and other heavy equipment needed to build turbines. The control devices included warning signs and lane separators to increase driver awareness and enhance safety at the intersections.
The project scope required management of massive computer-aided design (CAD) files demanded of a project of this size, according to Shahjahan Ali, an engineering technical leader on our General Civil team. The contour maps within the files contained millions of vertices, which made file management a critical task.
“Really, there weren't other big challenges because we understood the whole project so well,” Shahjahan said. “Our meetings and regular communication with Invenergy contractors made it so that we clearly understood exactly what had to be done.”
Our natural resources planning professionals provided essential environmental compliance services on all three projects. For Traverse, we conducted biological assessments and identified protected wildlife species and their habitats. We also helped plot project footprints that allowed Invenergy to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
“Total avoidance of water features while minimizing impacts to bird nesting sites and protected species makes the design phase more challenging,” said Belinda Butler-Veytia, an Environmental team leader for Olsson. “But having to obtain permits delays the schedule, so it can make a lot of sense to site projects so they are in the clear as far as environmental impacts.”
Once the project moved to construction, our Environmental team maintained a field presence to help monitor changing environmental conditions and better avoid hurdles or delays. Our wetland biologists supported delineating wetlands and streams using USACE guidance as construction-timed adjustments to infrastructure occurred.
We also leveraged GIS mapping software to create project databases that could be updated daily. Our approach gave Invenergy and their contractors regular status updates on their phones and laptops so they could plan the day's work.
“There are not a lot of firms using these software tools in this way,” Belinda said. “We adapt and flex to what our clients need and don't need, looking to incorporate efficiencies so we can provide a greater level of service. Our GIS mapping solution for environmental compliance is a great example that our clients and project partners find really valuable.”
We also staffed twice-weekly internal meetings to discuss important developments and issues, and we built project dashboards using secure cloud software that allowed reporting and collaboration in real time. The dashboards enabled all project managers to track and update open and closed actions, change requests, schedules, etc.
Our innovative use of technology, our commitment to our clients, and our technical expertise all came together to help Invenergy complete this landmark clean energy project.