Harnessing Oklahoma's Wind Power Won't Be a Breeze

Article excerpt

State Secretary of Energy David Fleischaker has a vision for Oklahoma's potential as a provider of electricity generated by wind.

"Oklahoma has the potential to produce wind energy to supply the rest of the nation just like we traditionally have sent oil to the rest of the country," he said.

Wind has the potential to produce 25,000 megawatts of power in western Oklahoma, he said. Current production for the state utilities totals 12,000 to 15,000 megawatts. The U.S. can currently generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity from the wind, enough to provide power to 2.5 million average American homes, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

"The immediate challenge is to build transmission infrastructure to send wind energy to end users in other states," he said.

Paying for the wind power transmission infrastructure is a complicated proposition involving state and federal regulators, the Southwest Power Pool, wind farm owners, landowners, Oklahoma-based utilities, utilities in other states - many east of the Mississippi River - who would buy the wind power created in Oklahoma and end users.

"Our challenge is to encourage orderly development of this resource," Fleischaker said.

The challenge includes fair compensation for Oklahoma resources.

"We do not want to deliver an industry that exports revenues out of state," he said.

The formula to keep revenues in state includes landowners.

"There is a land rush in western Oklahoma for sites for wind towers and to develop wind farms," Fleischaker said. "We want to educate the landowners so they get a fair share of the revenue for having wind turbines on their property."

The number of turbines that can be operated on a section of land varies. Typically up to 12 750 kilowatt or six 1.5 megawatt turbines can be placed on a section of land, according to the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, a collaborative research project between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

While terms vary, a typical land lease agreement pays the owner 2 percent to 4 percent of the gross annual turbine revenues, or approximately $2,000 for a 750 kilowatt turbine, according to the OWPI.

OG&E's Centennial Wind Farm near Woodward, one of the few wind farms owned and operated by a utility, has 80 turbines generating 120 megawatts of power.

The Oklahoma City-based utility also has a 15-year contract to purchase power produced from the Oklahoma Wind Energy Center, also near Woodward, owned by Florida-based FPL Energy. The 34 FPL wind turbines generate 50 megawatts of power for the OG&E electric system.

Selling power generated by wind turbines in western Oklahoma in other states takes additional infrastructure, which requires investment. …