Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive March 2009 Show 0909 Wind Transmission

Wind Transmission

While we don't have a shortage of wind, we do lack an adequate electrical power grid to get the energy being generated by Oklahoma's wind farms to the homes that need it.
Wind Transmission

Wind power

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Oklahoma Gas and Electric
Southwest Power Pool

Show Dates

Show 0909: Wind Transmission

Air date: March 1, 2009



Rob:  Well if you're a regular viewer, you’ve probably noticed we've been talking a lot about the wind recently, and for good reason.  It’s a natural resource with vast potential to not only provide our nation with clean renewable energy, but our state with economic development.  It’s estimated that Oklahoma has twice the wind energy potential per square mile than Texas does, which currently ranks number one in wind energy production.  And while we don’t have a shortage of wind, as you can well see, we do lack an adequate electrical power grid to get the energy being generated behind me to the homes that need it.  As our Russ Jowell reports, new funding in the President’s stimulus package could help power Oklahoma’s growing wind production.

Russ:  It’s a fact of life that just can’t be ignored in Oklahoma.  From ads on TV...

Ad:  America has some of the world's most abundant resources.

Russ:  to workers in factories, wind power is undoubtedly the future of Oklahoma’s energy portfolio.  But all that new clean renewable power will be ultimately meaningless, if it has nowhere to go.

Lee Dillahunty:  The potential is there, but the infrastructure is not.

Russ:  Oklahoma currently ranks 8th in the nation in the amount of wind energy produced each year, about 700 megawatts, a number that’s expected to grow in the coming years.  But while that number may sound impressive, some experts believe that Oklahoma’s power grid may not be up to the task of getting that power into, around, and out of Oklahoma.

Les Dillahunty:  It already is a problem, and it will grow in terms of the problem.

Russ:  Les Dillahunty is vice president of the Southwest Power Pool, and says that providing a sufficient energy infrastructure for the wind industry is critical in making it an economically viable venture.

Les Dillahunty:  The wind IS where the transmission grid is not.  So from my perspective, we MUST build a national grid to transport the wind beyond Oklahoma.

Russ:  The Southwest Power Pool is a conglomeration of about 50 energy co-ops, power companies, and municipalities spread throughout the south central United States.  Combined they have the potential to generate nearly 50,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power over 40-million homes.  And considering that this region will only use about 20% of that energy each year, it only makes economic sense that the rest be exported across the nation.

Les Dillahunty:  We can only absorb 10 to 15,000 megawatts. So we must export to the southeast, the northeast, and the west this wind above that which we can utilize.

Russ:  While wind infrastructure may be a 21st century problem, it is not one without precedent. In fact, it was just over half-a-century ago that our country solved another infrastructure crisis with the construction of the interstate system, and some including Dillahunty believe that in order to move forward with wind infrastructure, it might be worth taking a look back.

Dillahunty:  I think that we do need national leadership.  I think it’s much like the interstate highway system, in terms of the transmission grid, that Eisenhower said, "the nation needs it, and therefore we’re going to collect from everyone to build for everyone," so the grid is like that.

Russ:  And just like the interstate system, an investment in wind infrastructure today will mean solid economic returns for generations to come.

Jesse Langston:  Wind is a zero cost resource.  Once you build the infrastructure and get it in place, the commodity is free for the rest of your life.

Russ:  Jesse Langston is a vice president at OG&E, and says that growth in Oklahoma means growth in infrastructure; and growth in infrastructure, means growth in the economy.

Jesse Langston:  The economic model for utility is a little different because as Oklahoma grows, it builds more infrastructure, it creates more jobs, people use more electricity, and that’s good for us.  Every time somebody locates here, we’re better off; because, and it’s better off for you, because we get to spread the cost of a fixed structure over more people, so your cost per unit is less than it otherwise would be.

Russ:  Estimates are that a full expansion of Oklahoma’s power grid could cost upwards of three billion dollars, and while that may sound like a large investment, experts say that it's one without which Oklahoma’s wind industry will be just a shadow of its full potential.