Renewable Energy Leader
Oklahoma’s Western Farmers Electric Cooperative plans largest combined wind, solar and energy storage facility in U.S.
Photo by Howie Jackson/WFEC
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), a generation and transmission cooperative based in Anadarko, Oklahoma, has recently entered into a power purchase agreement to add 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy to its system; the deal backs up that power with a major investment in battery storage, creating the largest combined wind, solar and energy storage project in the nation. The agreement was made with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC with plans to have all the elements in place within five years.
“At Western Farmers, we are always looking for ways to better serve our members with reliable, low-cost and environmentally friendly energy,” said Gary Roulet, chief executive officer for WFEC. “With the price of wind and solar energy lower than ever, we are now able to pair it with battery storage to make more affordable, renewable energy* available to members for more hours of the day—even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” he added.
The combined wind, solar and energy storage project is the first of its kind announced in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the electric grid region that includes Oklahoma and 13 other states in the central U.S. covering 546,000 square miles. It is also the largest co-located wind, solar and energy storage project in the U.S.
“With the large amount of wind the Southwest Power Pool has in its territory, it’s fairly hard on some days of high production to manage all of that wind generation,” said Phil Schaeffer, WFEC’s principal resource planning engineer. “Battery storage will help with all of that excess generation at times. It ramps up instantly and there’s no other power generation technology that has this type of capability. It really puts a new tool in their tool bag.”
The project will come online in two phases:
- Skeleton Creek Wind (previously announced)—250 MW of wind energy, expected to begin operations by the end of 2019
- Skeleton Creek Solar—250 MW of solar energy, expected to begin operations by the end of 2023
- Skeleton Creek Storage—200 MW, 4-hour battery energy storage project, expected to begin operations by the end of 2023
The Skeleton Creek systems will be deployed across more than 30,000 acres located in three counties in north-central Oklahoma: Garfield, Alfalfa and Major counties.
“Solar obviously generates power during the day and, in our area, wind typically generates power at nighttime. So, they actually complement each other very well,” Schaeffer said. “Battery storage should smooth out the variability even more. When you have excess generation and not much load, you can actually store that energy.”
The Skeleton Creek wind, solar and energy storage projects, once fully operational, will help WFEC achieve about 50% of its nameplate capacity with wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. Solar generation will account for 521 MW of supply, wind generation will top 955 MW and hydroelectric will account for 270 MW of generation. G&T officials have cited competitive costs and successful deployments of the technology as factors contributing to the timing of the agreements.
The Skeleton Creek projects, in addition to the clean energy they generate, have the potential to stimulate the local economy by creating hundreds of construction jobs, full-time operational jobs, as well as millions of dollars in additional revenue for landowners and the local communities.
Under the terms of the power purchase agreement, NextEra Energy is negotiating all land leases and easement agreements and will build and maintain the systems.
“Pairing renewable energy with battery storage presents a tremendous advantage for Western Farmers and its customers,” said John Ketchum, president and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun. “With this combined facility, we can optimize and maximize the amount of low-cost, emissions-free electricity we provide, while helping Western Farmers diversify its power generation portfolio, reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and set a great example for others to follow.”
*WFEC purchases or produces energy from various wind and solar resources. However, WFEC has not historically, nor may not in the future, retain or retire all of the renewable energy certificates associated with the energy production from these facilities.