Oklahoma still has the wind at its back when it comes to adding more renewable energy to the Southwest Power Pool’s energy generating portfolio.
A report released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association shows the Sooner State added 576 megawatts of additional capacity to its wind generation fleet during 2018.
Only three other states added more wind generation during the year, and Oklahoma dropped a spot — from second to third — for operational wind energy capacity at the end of the year, with 8,072 megawatts.
Still, the report notes the state has about 1,800 megawatts of new wind energy planned, with about 400 megawatts of that under construction. That’s about 20 percent of the existing capacity Oklahoma had online at the start of 2018, said Mark Yates, vice president for the Advanced Power Alliance.
Taking a project from concept to completed construction usually is about a two-year-long process, he said.
“All of these companies and developers are looking for where the wind is the best and where you can tie into transmission,” Yates said Wednesday.
“Then, obviously, you have to have buy-in from the community and landowners. There is a lot that goes into it.”
Yates said he expects to see some new projects started in southeastern Oklahoma during the coming year, given advanced technology that makes it possible to use wind to generate power even in areas where the wind isn’t as robust.
“Technology has really allowed for expansion,” he said.
From a national perspective, Yates said Oklahoma remains among the top states where companies are not only developing wind energy, but also solar and energy storage technologies.
The association also noted in its report that Fortune 500 companies, cities and universities bought a record amount of wind-generated energy through power purchase agreements in 2018.
“A rapidly growing number of big brands and utilities clearly understand that for American consumers, it’s no longer enough for energy to be affordable and reliable,” Tom Kiernan, the wind energy association’s CEO, stated in a release. “It must also be clean.”
The association said major utilities signed contracts in 2018 to bring aboard more than 4,300 megawatts of wind-generated power. That, combined with power purchase agreements made by other companies, increased power commitments involving wind energy by more than 8,500 megawatts, year over year.
Because wind power uses no fuel to produce electricity, corporate customers use power purchase agreements involving wind projects to lock in long-term, fixed prices to meet their future power needs.
Money a corporation pays up front for the agreement is used by the developer to reduce its costs in building the project.
The developer, then, issues renewable energy attributes that guarantee to cover the difference between what the buyer agreed to pay for the future power and what it actually costs during the contract period.
If that power ends up costing less, that’s gravy for the developer, and as additional renewable energy sources are added, wholesale power prices generally fall.
Wind developers in Oklahoma combined with others across the nation to add 7,588 megawatts of capacity during 2018.
“Businesses are responding to their customers by seeking out the lowest-cost, clean energy they can find to power their products and operations reliable,” Kiernan said.
“Wind power’s record-setting 2018 proves you really can have it all.”