Alabama Power serves 1.4 million customers with electricity derived from nearly every source imaginable, including coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear plants.
Soon the utility company will be able to add Oklahoma wind to its list of power sources.
Alabama Power recently signed a 20-year purchase power agreement with a Kansas developer that plans to build what could grow into the largest wind farm in Oklahoma.
The Chisholm View Wind Project will be built in Garfield and Grant counties, more than 750 miles from Alabama Power’s headquarters in Birmingham, so TradeWind Energy spent several years studying the region’s existing electrical transmission system to ensure it could accommodate the arrangement.
“We’ve been able to find some capacity on the existing system and take advantage of it,” said Geoff Coventry, TradeWind’s senior vice president of operations.
The new wind farm will be able to generate as much as 300 megawatts of electricity.
Coventry said the existing grid will be able to carry that power to Alabama without adding any new transmission lines.
Wind developers often cite a lack of transmission lines in areas rich in that resource as an obstacle to the industry’s growth.
The grid is well-equipped to serve customers in well-populated areas, but wind power often comes from areas without many people.
Coventry said TradeWind has been able to locate projects near well-populated areas with sufficient available transmission capacity.
The Chisholm View project will be north of Enid, the largest city in northwest Oklahoma.
Most wind farms in Oklahoma tend to be close to the utility companies drawing power from them so there aren’t issues with getting them connected to the grid.
Things aren’t so simple when Oklahoma wind power is ticketed for other states, Oklahoma State University professor Shannon Farrell said.
Many states have renewable portfolio standards that mandate a certain percentage of their power come sources such as wind or solar energy that aren’t available there, he said.
Texas requires utilities to generate alternative power in state, but other states are more flexible. Farrell said utility companies often rely on offsets to meet those requirements, buying renewable energy credits from states like Oklahoma that are rich in renewable resources.
“It’s kind of like an environmental do-good certificate,” he said.
TradeWind’s Coventry said Alabama Power will get the electricity and renewable credits from the Chisholm View wind farm.
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