Solar Power Expands Renewable Portfolio

Solar Power Expands Renewable Portfolio

When OEC's Solar Garden begins functioning this month, it will be the first of its kind in an Oklahoma metropolitan area. Located at Interstate 35 and Highway 77, its 250 kilowatt (kW) output capacity is set to become part of Western Farmers Electric Cooperative's (WFEC, OEC’s wholesale power supplier) already impressive renewable portfolio. 

“Adding solar to the generation mix is a natural next step for us and WFEC,” said OEC CEO Patrick Grace. “For over a decade, WFEC has been constructing wind farms and generating wind and hydro power. Many people may not realize how renewable its mix already is, and solar will only increase it.” 

As your trusted energy advisor, OEC constantly seeks ways to improve our members’ quality of life through the safe delivery of highly reliable, reasonably priced electric service, innovative energy programs and exceptional member service. OEC’s new Solar Garden is an innovative approach to ensuring this mission is carried out. 

The 250 kW Solar Garden is the first of two solar projects adding to the renewable mix. The second, Tuttle’s 4 megawatt Solar Farm, will be operational later this year. 

Currently, WFEC operates 10 wind farms, mostly in southwestern Oklahoma and New Mexico. In 2015, 30 percent of the power generated by WFEC came from those wind farms and hydropower facilities. That number will only increase as more solar facilities go online in 2017. 

Just like wind was a fraction of the generation mix when it first came online 10 years ago, solar will be the same for a while. Solar power has the potential to become very economically competitive over the next few years, and we will learn more the longer it is in production. 

“By the end of year one, year three, year five, etc., we will be very knowledgeable of not only its true cost and benefit, but also its maintenance, performance over time and ability to handle Oklahoma’s ever-changing weather patterns,” said Grace. 

While other co-ops and utilities across the state have elected to offer the output of their solar facilities to consumers on a subscription basis, OEC, after careful consideration, found it to be more cost-effective and more beneficial in the long run to make it available to everyone. Members are not required to take any action and will begin receiving the benefits of solar power as soon as the Solar Garden begins operation — albeit the beneifts will be somewhat minimal until more solar facilities are constructed and more solar power is added to the renewable mix. 

“Our members can still be proud knowing the electricity powering their homes and businesses is more clean and environmentally-friendly than ever before,” said Grace. 

OEC will also offer tours of the Solar Garden to showcase the technology of solar panels and emphasize safety when working with them. The close proximity to an OEC substation directly demonstrates how the solar power generated from the Solar Garden makes its way to the electric grid. 

Contact Daniel Lofland, 217-6631 or daniel.lofland@ okcoop.org, to schedule a tour or for more information on OEC’s renewable energy portfolio.

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