The 150 MW Osage Wind project consists of 84 wind towers and was developed on 3,400 ha of the Osage Nation Reservation by TradeWind Energy, a Kansas-based division of Enel Green Power North America Inc. The project was proposed in 2008, approved for construction in 2011, and brought into operation in 2015.
Local residents, conservation groups, and the Osage Nation organized the Protect Osage Coalition to oppose the construction of the turbines. An additional wind project proposed nearby (the Mustang Run wind project) is also receiving criticism and opposition. The additional 136 MW facility would encompass another 9,500 acres (3840 ha) and its power would be sold to the Grand River Dam Authority .
Concerns included five main aspects: 1) impacts on resident health; 2) destruction of tallgrass prairie ecosystems, especially threats to prairie chickens and eagles sacred to the Osage Nation; 3) disruption of cultural and spiritual sites, rural character, and prairie views; 4) illegal use of tribal-owned mineral rights; 5) decline of property values.
Health Concerns: Residents expressed concern about infrasound that turbines produce and associated health problems, such as headaches and ringing of the ears .
Environmental Concerns: Tallgrass Prairie in the area once spanned 140 million acres across 14 states; today, less than 5 percent remains. Conservationists identify the prairie ecosystem as a key resource that mitigates climate change . Tall wind towers and transmission lines are also lethal for birds. Threatened or endangered species in the area include bald and golden eagles and the greater prairie chicken. Bald eagles are sacred to the Osage tribe: citizens use eagle feathers in ceremonies, in traditional clothing and jewelry, and for other things. According to , “The bald eagle and golden eagle were previously protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Those birds were removed from the endangered and threatened list in 2007 , as populations increased. Federal agencies still have protection rules in place. If Osage citizens want to get eagle feathers, they must apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a permit,” while the eagles are seriously endangered by construction of the wind projects.
Cultural concerns: Construction threatened historical sites, gravesites, artifacts, and the sovereignty of the Osage people . According to testimonies collected by , “For us, for the Osage, the very landscape – and in particular where the sky and earth join at the horizon – is where our people came from…It’s part of our creation story. We came from the prairie. They look out across the prairie now, and now they can imagine their ancestors being chopped to pieces by the turbines… The tribal members still worship the horizon in special, sunrise ceremonies. But the turbines have ruined those gatherings.” There were also concerns related to tourism and the aesthetic value of the landscape. The stretch of highway where the wind farm is located has been federally-designated as the Osage Scenic By-way, prompting Osages to also challenge the altered view and threat to tourism that might be caused by the towers.
Mineral Rights: The Osage Nation Reservation was formed in 1870. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the tribe retained mineral rights on the reservation, and oil extraction made the Osage Nation the richest tribe in the United States . The Osage Nation presented an initial legal challenge to the project in 2011, stating that the development of the project would interfere with their oil and natural gas claims on the site. A federal judge ruled against the tribe’s claims in December 2011 . A later legal challenge cited illegal mining of sand and gravel on-site for turbine foundations . The federal government, acting on behalf of the Osage Nation sued Osage Wind, LLC in 2014, and a district court ruled in favour of Osage Wind, LLC. After the federal government decided not to appeal the case, the Osage Mineral Council (OMC) filed to intervene and appealed the decision. The 10th circuit court of appeals decided in favour of the OMC in 2017 after the wind farm was completed and in operation . The court awarded damages to the Osage Nation for violation of their mineral rights by gravel mining. However, when the Osage Nation intervened in a lawsuit to prevent the expansion of the wind project, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against the tribe and approved the Mustang Run Wind Project on land contiguous to and overlapping with the Osage Wind Project in 2016 .
Property Values: Residents had concerns that the project would decrease their property values, and that a strong pro-wind lobby at the Capitol resulted in a lack of regulation for the industry . Residents noted that the wind industry receives large tax exemptions that would prevent them from bringing local benefits to services such as schools .