November 3, 2007

Officials seek planning guidance in wind power study

For $50,000, Oklahoma can get the same kind of comprehensive study Kansas got from Southwest Power Pool on the state’s wind power resource. The plan could be finished by spring 2008 and would provide the guidance state leaders need to form a plan for new electricity generation and transmission upgrades. With the information provided by the study, policymakers hope to retain Oklahoma’s position as the regional leader in wind power.

Kansas worked with regional transmission organization SPP to figure out what role the state would play in SPP’s plan for expanding transmission capabilities in the region over the next decade. As part of a 10-year, $1.4 billion transmission expansion plan for the region, SPP’s “X Plan” is designed to build wind generation capacity throughout the Central and South Plains area in the shape of an x.

SPP has a system in place to help companies that build electricity transmission infrastructure recoup their costs for certain projects that would advance the goals of the regional electricity transmission system. A statewide study by SPP would thus help electricity providers in Oklahoma make better financial decisions in planning future upgrades.

Currently, Oklahoma has the most capacity in the region for wind generation installed, at 686 megawatts, according to Jay Caspary, director of engineering for the Southwest Power Pool. Both Kansas and Texas have 360 megawatts of wind generation installed, followed by New Mexico with 200 megawatts. Over the next few years, Texas is expected to catch up to Oklahoma in wind generation.

Oklahoma has another 1,089 megawatts of wind generation with interconnection agreements planned for the near future, while Texas has another 1,286 megawatts planned. Estimates foresee between 1,000 megawatts and 2,000 megawatts of incremental wind power being developed in Oklahoma by 2010, and between 2,000 megawatts and 6,000 megawatts by 2020.

But there will still be more room for growth after those milestones are reached. By 2030, Oklahoma and Texas will be tied for wind generation potential, at 20,000 megawatts each, with Kansas and New Mexico peaking at 10,000 megawatts each.

For many states, wind-generated electricity will become a necessity as policymakers in 23 states so far have begun to mandate their electricity utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewable resources. New Mexico plans to get 10 percent of its power from renewables by 2011, while Arizona plans to get 15 percent from renewables by 2025.

Bary K. Warren, director of transmission policy and compliance for the Empire District Electric Co. in Joplin, Mo., cautioned the group to keep projections for future wind generation development modest. Companies may put out press releases indicating their intent to build future capacity, but unforeseen developments may significantly limit the amount of wind generation that actually gets built, he said.

Paul Renfro of OG&E said after the meeting he took exception to Warren’s comments, asserting that OG&E is fully committed to its wind development plan. OGE Energy Corp. Chairman Pete Delaney announced Tuesday the company plans to quadruple its wind production over the next few years, increasing its wind generation capacity from 170 megawatts to about 770 megawatts.

by Janice Francis-Smith

The Journal Record

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