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Nov 14, 2019

Renewable power production reaches new highs in October

Journal Record | Daisy Creager | November 13, 2019

Renewable power production within the Southwest Power Pool reached new highs last month.

Renewable resources accounted for 77% of electricity output on Oct. 18 in the Southwest Power Pool’s 14-state territory, which includes Oklahoma. Wind power accounted for 69% on that day. The day before, wind power production reached a record high of 17,595 megawatts, the regional transmission organization reported.

SPP Communications Specialist Meghan Sever said the previous records were set April 27 when renewable power accounted for 71.4% of all output and wind power accounted for 67.3% of production. The non-wind renewable power production on Oct. 18 came from hydropower and waste, Sever said. 

SPP oversees the electric grid through 60,000 miles of transmission lines in 14 states, serving 18 million people.

Days like Oct. 18 happen when wind farms experience “phenomenal wind days,” which usually occurs across several SPP wind farms at once as weather moves through an area, Advance Power Alliance Vice President Mark Yates said.

In 2018, wind made up 23.5% of SPP energy production and 36.1% of Oklahoma energy production. 

Yates said the new records are part of a trend in the wind industry as more installed capacity is added. In Oklahoma alone, 1,300 MW of capacity is coming online between 2018 and 2020, Yates said.

Oklahoma currently ranks third for installed wind capacity with 8,072 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

“I think it’s not far-fetched to say in the next couple of years you could see Oklahoma bumping up at nearly 50% of its power generation coming from renewable resources,” Yates said.

Yates said as wind and renewable power generation grows, coal will become less prominent, giving natural gas and other resources more opportunity.

Coal has decreased in its SPP energy contribution from 63% in 2011 to 42% in 2018. Between August 2018 and 2019, coal consumption by all industries in Oklahoma fell by half from 1 million tons to about 544,000 tons. Consumption of the resource by the state’s electric utilities in the same period decreased from 967,000 tons to 462,000 tons.

“Coal, more often than not, is becoming uneconomic for companies to continue to dump money and push,” Yates said. “I think you’re going to see coal continue to phase out, probably quicker than most would anticipate. I think you’re still going to see a tremendous need for low-cost natural gas …  until the grid has both solar and battery storage.

“I think in Oklahoma you’re going to see what’s taking place across the country and frankly, Oklahoma’s been a leader in the sense we diversified our power generation.”

Recent technology advancements have made wind turbine technology more effective, extending their life span and allowing their construction to move east through Oklahoma to less windy areas.

Read more here.