Electricity produced from wind set a record for several hours on Thursday, according to data from the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization that covers Oklahoma and eight other states. Despite the wind record, coal continues to be the dominant fuel for the region.
The wind was mighty on Thursday in Oklahoma and eight other states that make up the Southwest Power Pool as the regional transmission organization set a record for electricity produced from wind.
Wind provided about 6,400 megawatts of power to power pool utilities for several hours on Thursday afternoon and evening. That represented about 23 percent of the region's generating fuels in use, including coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydropower.
The organization has a total wind generating capacity of more than 7,260 megawatts, so Thursday's peak of 6,448 megawatts was about 89 percent of the wind capacity in the region. One megawatt can power about 200 homes during peak demand times.
While the number of megawatts from wind set a record, the organization had a higher share of wind generation this year on April 6, according to a review of the organization's data. Wind accounted for one-third of all electricity generation in the region for several early-morning hours on that day.
The organization measures its generating mix in five-minute and hourly increments. Coal is usually the top fuel by far, accounting for more than half of the electricity generation most days. This year, natural gas and wind have switched out for second place, depending on demand, time of day and how hard the wind is blowing across the region.
Michael Goggin, senior electric industry analyst for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said wind tends to peak in the spring and the fall across most of the Southwest Power Pool region.
“The winds have been pretty high in the last few days with the weather systems over much of the Midwest,” Goggin said. “The SPP has great wind in Oklahoma and Kansas that can provide high amounts of power. We've got a stable, high-quality resource there.”
The organization's wind peak came as Tulsa-based utility Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced agreements with three wind developers for 600 megawatts of wind capacity to come online in 2016. PSO, a unit of American Electric Power Co. Inc., has more than 530,000 electricity customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.
A condition of PSO's power purchase agreements was the ability of the companies to begin construction on the wind farms in Texas, Beaver and Dewey counties before the end of the year. That's when a key federal tax credit for wind production expires. The incentive provides a 2.3-cent credit for each kilowatt hour of electricity generated.
Goggin said the prospects for a renewal of the production tax credit are in the hands of Congress, which hasn't been at its most efficient lately.
“It's our No. 1 priority right now,” Goggin said. “We believe there's broad bipartisan support for renewal. Our main challenge is finding the right legislative vehicle for it.”