Energy experts will produce a final report on Oklahoma’s future in wind power by April, at no cost to the state. The results of the study could be used to draw wind energy wildcatter companies to Oklahoma, the so-called “Saudi Arabia of Wind.”
Kansas had paid $50,000 for a similar study, but regional transmission organization Southwest Power Pool has agreed to provide the information to Oklahoma for free as part of its efforts to map out wind power transmission for the entire region. As part of a 10-year, $1.4 billion transmission expansion plan for the region, SPP is working on a project known as the X Plan, which will build wind generation capacity throughout the Central and South Plains area in the shape of an “x,” taking in much of Oklahoma’s northwestern panhandle.
During the 2007 legislative session, lawmakers created the Oklahoma Electric Power Transmission Task Force and instructed the group to study how to get wind power generated in the Oklahoma Panhandle onto the state’s electricity grid. Jeff Cloud, chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, serves as chairman of the task force. Cloud said an SPP official had called Oklahoma the Saudi Arabia of Wind.
The Oklahoma Panhandle alone has the potential to house more than 8,400 megawatts of wind-generated capacity, said Shawn Lepard, a consultant working with the city of Guymon. Assuming an installed cost of $1.5 million per megawatt of capacity, wind generation can attract capital investment in the area of more than $12 billion to generate more than $1.2 billion in wind-generated electricity annually, with landowners getting as much as $38 million a year in royalty payments.
The rest of western Oklahoma, excluding the Panhandle, has the potential to house nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind capacity, with an investment of more than $10 billion. So far, just over 530 megawatts of wind capacity has been installed in Oklahoma.
Officials know the state needs to build up its wind generation and transmission infrastructures; the report will outline how much to construct, where to build and to establish a time line for construction. The final report will be issued in time for lawmakers to create any legislation needed for the project before the end of the 2008 session, which concludes in late May.
Already, companies focused on wind energy and transmission have come calling in Oklahoma, such as ITC Great Plains, which has applied for utility status in Oklahoma. Companies pay attention to those states that have made clear their intent to focus on wind power, state Energy Secretary David Fleischaker told other task force members during the five meetings the group has had at the Capitol since July.
On Thursday, task force members approved a preliminary report to submit to the governor and legislative leaders in time to meet its Jan. 31 deadline. The one-page preliminary report gives an overview of the task force’s activities over the last six months and states its final report will be issued within 30 days of the completion of SPP’s power transmission study.
by Janice Francis-Smith
11 January 2008
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