Experts Say Renewable Energy is Viable in Oklahoma

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During the recent JR Now webinar, experts concluded that renewable-energy options like wind and solar are a positive notion, but the Biden administration’s 100% compliance goal set for 2035 is improbable.

“It’s really hard to think that that’s realistic,” said Vice President of Advanced Power Alliance, Mark Yates. “If you want a blueprint for the way energy should be done, I think you ought to look at Oklahoma.”

Although it has been a state that has historically focused on oil and gas, Yates indicated that Oklahoma has experienced variation due to market dictation and not governmental interference. The U.S. Energy Information Administration stipulated that electricity generated from renewables is currently responsible for less than 20% of the country’s total projection.

According to Dan Sullivan, president and CEO of the Grand River Dam Authority, the middle landscape of the United States serving as the location of the Southwest Power Pool has been compared to the wind generation found in Saudi Arabia. Other areas, however, are not all capable of the same generation results. As a result, imposing regulations that specify a specific percentage rate for wind or solar cannot work the same for each area.

“Anytime you put your thumb on the scale for any one generation source, that’s a poor public policy path to take,” said Sullivan. “What the federal government should be looking at is setting a standard and giving everyone flexibility about how to get there.”

The Approach

The Grand River Dam Authority highlights and focuses upon what is best for its customers. As a result, all energy sources are considered, and what proves to have positive results is utilized. During their 85 year lifetime, electric generation has been sourced from water and wind in addition to coal and natural gas.

“We cannot look at the exclusion of one particular generation source because we saw during this recent winter storm that a lot of the renewable sources weren’t available, and neither was natural gas,” said Sullivan. “We did have our hydro available, and we maxed it out as much as we could.”

Following a similar school of thought, Yates stipulated that the Advanced Power Alliance is composed of almost 50 companies, with the majority executing innovation in renewable development.

“When you look at the electricity markets today, they’re continuing to evolve,” said Yates. “Utilities are procuring or developing more renewable resources, and a lot of that has to do with costs.”

He cited an example of how the cost factor has imposed such a great influence on renewable usage. With an intense reduction in wind costs relating to the utility industry, the past 20 years have also included a similar cost drop with solar.

“In the grand scheme of things, energy has always been in transition, but a lot of what we’re seeing taking place across the county is cost-driven. You have a lot of companies and corporations that are wanting to lock in a lower cost of power, and they’re looking to renewables to do that,” said Yates. “That’s a trend we don’t see stopping anytime soon, and Oklahoma is not only in that game but is going to be in this game for decades to come.”

Minimal ResistanceVarious factors illuminate renewables, and as a result, they are gaining both traction and support. Kevin Jones, CEO of Solar Power of Oklahoma, calculates a nine to ten-year time span for a return on the residential investment. That of the commercial side sees a 50% reduction in the investment’s return time. Both areas are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit.

Having installed upwards of 1,200 packages across the state of Oklahoma, Jones stated that 90% of that figure comes from the residential market. An increase in work with municipalities and tribal nations has presented itself, but power companies owned by cities have waged the most resistance.

“We have been a big oil-and-gas state for so many years, and we honestly expected a lot of pushback,” said Jones. “That hasn’t been the case as people learn solar is simply an addition to the energy spectrum.”

Jones clarified that wind and solar work together as a team of energy sources. While the sun shines in the daylight hours, nightly hours see a more predictable and frequent identification of wind. As these alternate sources of power grow in popularity, data collection grows more relevant. This same data is indicating that wind is another added power source.

Noting that the past seven years have experienced a doubling of efficiency, Jones said, “It’s finally at that point where it really makes sense to look at that investment.”

Future Driven by Investment

Sullivan compared wind and solar but rationalized that both are driven by a commitment to infrastructure investment with transmission being the grand focus.

“Solar tends to be more local,” said Sullivan. “Wind tends to be more remote, and away from the load that it’s serving, so you have to get it there.”

Yates supported this same theory and added that infrastructure for all sources of energy must experience substantial investment in order to venture forward in growth and capability. 

“From an energy development standpoint, we’ve got it all. We’ve got all the resources. We need them all. They all have a role,” said Yates. “Whether it’s more wind coming online with new projects, utility-scale solar projects, battery storage, hydrogen, it’s all good for Oklahoma. It’s all good for local communities, landowners, school districts, our economy, and…it’s great for recruiting businesses as well.”

 

 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]



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