Favorable winds of change are blowing across the state, creating new sources of physical and financial energy in the region and beyond thanks to efforts of a Claremore company.
Pelco Structural, a manufacturer of custom steel poles whose products people use every day without even realizing it, is gearing up for a major initiative that will impact current and future generations on both the local and national levels.
Pelco has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Clean Line Energy Partners to produce a portion of the transmission structures for an approximately 700-mile transmission line from the Oklahoma Panhandle to western Tennessee, called the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. This project will allow wind farms in the state to deliver up to 4,000 mega-watts of wind produced electricity, more than four times the energy the Hoover Dam produces on average; put another way, the energy delivered by the Plains & Eastern Clean Line each year will be more than that produced by four Hoover Dams.
Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, has partnered with Pelco on the $2 billion project. Pending approval of all the necessary permits, construction is expected to start in 2016 and continue into 2018.
“This is great for the entire state of Oklahoma,” Pelco President Phil Albert says. “This project transports clean energy from wind-rich areas like the Panhandle of Oklahoma to other areas of the country where clean energy is not as readily available. Not only will businesses all over the state grow as a result of this historic project, but it will also provide another source of income for farmers in drought stricken areas of Northwestern Oklahoma, along with all kinds of construction opportunities statewide.”
Clean Line’s potential future supply order from Pelco could be worth $300 million or more depending on commodity prices and the number of structures purchased. Pelco could additionally supply structural steel for the converter substations that will be part of the project. All forms of energy, most of all wind, ignore geographic boundaries. It is one thing to harvest wind energy in a rural area of Oklahoma, but it is a completely different issue to transport it to market.
“This project, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line, does precisely that,” Albert says.
This is one of five separate transmission lines nationwide that Clean Line is developing.
The Oklahoma line will carry the wind-generated electricity through Oklahoma and deliver it to Arkansas to the Tennessee Valley Authority for distribution to the Mid-South and Southeastern United States.
Clean Line President and CEO Michael Skelly calls Pelco a “preferred supplier” because of the company’s location and business model.
“We were just lucky that there happened to be a manufacturer of these towers in Oklahoma,” Skelly says. “We visited the factory in Claremore and determined, ‘this is exactly what we need.’ It’s important to us to do everything we can do to maximize the economic benefits to be as great as possible for the states that will host our project.”
Skelly calls the agreement with Pelco serendipitous.
Albert recalls first reading about the project in 2010, when Clean Line Officials were in Tulsa. “This project propels Oklahoma to the forefront of our national discussion about renewables and alternative energy, ” Albert says.
The project does not involve any public monies and is sensitive to local job creation and economic development. Albert anticipates hiring at least 100 more workers once the Claremore facility begins manufacturing the poles, as well as expanding the plant and its equipment.
Pelco was founded by Albert and the Parduhn family, his partners in Edmond, Oklahoma, 10 years ago with an emphasis on innovation, quality and service. Pelco manufactures custom steel poles for infrastructure solutions: electric transmission, traffic control and informational signage.
“When someone turns on the light, they expect there to be electricity, “ Albert says. “When people pull up to a traffic light, they expect a modicum of safety; and when a baseball player hits a homerun during a night game, we expect to see it. Our products do all of those things.”
Albert says each pole is an important piece of providing a solution to a customer’s need.
“Pelco’s flexible manufacturing footprint is unique in our space,” Albert says. “We do not view steel poles as a commodity; rather, we provide custom steel pole products for infrastructure development, including sensitivities to identification, delivery and product installation.
“We do not force our clients to pick from a catalog, but we customize products to meet their needs,” Albert says. “That custom solution always includes logistics.”
Pelco is a licensed private carrier delivering its products, with its personnel, on its equipment. This customized approach does not diminish the sizable impact the company is making in the industry.
Pelco’s traffic signal products are distributed in 41 states across the continental U.S. Pelco is very proud to be the State of Texas’ SmartBuy partner for the supply of traffic signal poles.
Albert is proud of what Pelco has accomplished in its first decade of operations and knows the future looks even brighter, especially in light of the Plains and Eastern project.
It is no accident that Albert and Phil Parduhn picked Northeastern Oklahoma to establish Pelco Structural. One of the primary reasons they chose to locate on 37 acres in Claremore was its close proximity to Tulsa’s Port of Catoosa, where the majority of its raw materials are inventoried. Galvanizing services, and more importantly, the human resources and trade services in Northeastern Oklahoma, made Claremore the best choice.
“Businesses like Pelco are in Northeastern Oklahoma today thanks to visionaries from the 1950s and 1960s who imagined and constructed a navigational channel,” Albert says. “I mean, think about it, America’s furthest inward western seaport right here in Oklahoma.”
He believes the Plains and Eastern project embodies that same kind of bold vision.
“I think we will marvel about this someday in the same way that we marvel about Tulsa’s Port of Catoosa today,” Albert says.