Corporation Commission details Oklahoma wind growth in report to Legislature
Winds of change were generated over the past decade by Oklahoma’s renewable energy industry.
A report generated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for Oklahoma’s Legislature states about $14.7 billion was spent in the state from the beginning of 2009 through the end of 2019 to establish and grow the wind industry here.
It also reports that another $2.3 billion was spent over that same time to improve the electrical transmission grid within Oklahoma to boost the reliability of electrical services state residents receive.
Commissioner Dana Murphy, who worked on behalf of fellow elected commissioners with the agency’s staff to author the report released Friday, said the 10-year summary shows development of the resource went beyond what legislative and regulatory leaders at the time expected could be achieved.
Murphy said expectations then were that wind within the state might ultimately be able to supply about 15% of the power Oklahomans routinely consumed.
But industry officials recently stated wind projects within the state supplied about 36% of the energy used by state residents and businesses in 2018 (2019 data won't be released until later this year).
“We have far surpassed the goals we hoped for,” she said, “and that is great news for Oklahoma.
“There are challenges going forward, but I have confidence we can achieve further advances by collaborating with energy industry partners, not only across the state but on a regional basis.”
The report draws on data provided by the wind industry and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional transmission organization that oversees grid operations across Oklahoma and parts or all of 13 other Great Plains states between the Red River and the U.S./Canadian border.
It recaps results of efforts the legislature required the state agency to undertake to promote the development of wind energy in Oklahoma and to create a robust transmission grid to deliver that power to Oklahomans.
It reports that during the past decade, 44 commercial wind energy facilities have been installed in Oklahoma, while developers of 48 others have notified the agency they intend to build future projects.
Among states with wind energy developments, 2018 data showed Oklahoma was second nationally in generating wind power that year, third in terms of installed wind capacity and fourth in the number of installed wind turbines.
Current capacity, when fully operational, can generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2.6 million homes, it states.
The report also states the wind industry generated an estimated $235 million in state and local tax revenue, more than $200 million land lease payments and created more than 7,000 jobs over the past decade.
As for grid improvements, commission staff members and Murphy, who has represented Oklahoma on the SPP’s Regional State Committee for a number of years including one as the committee’s president, have worked throughout the past decade with SPP to improve the grid that carries power across Oklahoma and the other states it serves.
The organization has done that in a number of ways.
One involved boosting the reliability and costs for power the system supplies by creating and then improving a day-ahead market that is designed to meet anticipated electricity needs on the grid with affordably priced power supplies that can be reliably provided.
Utilities, cooperatives and other power generators make bids to put electricity into the grid daily, and then purchase the most-attractively priced energy on the system to meet their needs.
The market dramatically has lowered wholesale power prices across the region, while Oklahomans in 2019 had the fourth-lowest retail cost for electricity in the nation.
The SPP also ensures the supply of energy on the grid is reliably provided through round-the-clock efforts it makes to balance system loads.
It also, with input of its staff, hundreds of member companies and state officials that serve on its Regional State Committee, annually evaluates needs for both short- and long-term grid improvements to keep the system optimally operating.
More than $10 billion of upgrades have been made across the entire system the past 10 years, including about $2.3 billion in Oklahoma.
Those upgrades have added interconnections enabling power producers to put energy on to the grid and completed other long-planned or more urgently needed improvements to reduce power congestion issues and other potential problems that could impact the system’s performance.
Recently, the organization has turned its attention to improving its ability to export excess power generated by wind and other renewables to adjacent grids.
“Grid improvements made during the past 10 years are one of the factors that helped expand wind development in Oklahoma,” Murphy said.“Other factors, such as the quality of the resource (there’s lots of wind in Oklahoma) and federal and state incentives also played important roles in expanding wind development."
“But I don’t think we would have seen the same amount of development without building additional transmission.”