OKLAHOMA CITY – Making some basic assumptions about Oklahoma’s wind energy future may be the hardest part of a project to create a plan to improve the state’s electricity infrastructure.
Members of the Oklahoma Electric Power Transmission Task Force met at the state Capitol on Wednesday to review a proposal they had asked Jay Caspary, director of engineering for the Southwest Power Pool, to draw up requesting a comprehensive transmission study by SPP.
Task force members spent most of the meeting debating the reasonableness of the assumptions Caspary had made regarding wind generation in order to establish a starting point for the planning process. The task force approved the study proposal with a few modifications.
“We can make whatever assumptions you want,” said Caspary, asking for the task force’s input on the document. Making assumptions regarding how much wind power Oklahoma may install in the next decade, as well as future fuel prices and the impact of government regulation and taxation, is an inexact science, but such estimates are required in order to create a model of how Oklahoma’s future electricity infrastructure might look.
SPP had conducted a similar study for the state of Kansas for $50,000, but Caspary told the task force SPP may be able to do the study for Oklahoma free of charge, as part of a planning project for the entire region. Regional transmission organization SPP is responsible for overseeing transmission issues in eight states, including Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the region are interested to learn what role SPP expects them to play in a project known as the X Plan. 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,” which takes in much of Oklahoma’s northwestern panhandle.
Barry K. Warren, director of transmission policy and compliance for the Empire District Electric Co. in Joplin, Mo., and a member of the task force, reasserted the misgivings he had expressed at the last task force meeting regarding the level of wind generation planned for Oklahoma.
Caspary estimated Oklahoma would have at least 1,000 megawatts of wind generated capacity installed by 2010, and as much as 6000 megawatts installed by 2020. Between 75 percent and 80 percent of the new wind development in Oklahoma would occur in two counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Caspary assured Warren that although “it sounds like a lot of wind,” Oklahoma can achieve and reasonably can be expected to achieve new wind generation in that range.
Secretary of Energy David Fleischaker said the estimates should consider the impact of federal energy policies and the cost of other kinds of fuel. Plans to develop additional wind generation will be greatly impacted by the cost of wind power in comparison with other fuel sources. Caspary had estimated natural gas prices would continue in the range of $7.25 per MBtu, but Fleischaker said other analysts are predicting $12-$15 per MBtu in the near future.
“We’re all just throwing darts here, blindfolded,” said Fleischaker. Another attendee at Wednesday’s meeting noted that long-range predictions are usually quite wrong, reminding members that in the 1970s some analysts had predicted that by 1990 there would be no more natural gas available in America.
Congress appears intent upon creating a carbon tax or cap and trade system, which will increase the cost of using coal to generate electricity, said Fleischaker. If wind farms continue to be offered “green credits” for producing pollution-free energy, and are given the ability to sell those credits, wind technology could become even more attractive in the future, he said.
Jay Lobit of Novus Windpower said the estimated price of $5 to $10 per megawatt hour to build collection facilities to aggregate wind farms was “about 10 times too high, according to our experience.” The task force removed the estimate regarding collection facilities from the report, in favor of including the cost of building collection facilities in with the total estimated cost of wind energy production, which task force members put at $40-$60 per megawatt hour.
Caspary said a preliminary report on the SPP study may be released in January and the final report in March, allowing the Oklahoma Legislature the opportunity to pass any necessary legislation relating to the study before the 2008 session ends in May.
by Janice Francis-Smith
20 December 2007
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