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Powerful Living Oklahoma Wind By Anna Politano Empowering local communities


WFEC has a long-term agreement to purchase a portion of the output from Blue Canyon Wind Farm, near Lawton, Okla. Photos by Anna Politano


W


ind. The same force that strengthens


a tornado, fuels a wildfi re, fl ies a kite or propels a sailboat also brings


energy to your household. It may sound fl eeting and unpredictable, but wind is an essential, growing energy source. To ‘validate’ Oklahoma’s state song and its claim “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain,” the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), ranks Oklahoma 4th in the nation for wind pow- er generation.


It’s no surprise Oklahoma has achieved this notable ranking. Oklahoma’s electric coopera- tives are key players in the wind energy makeup of the state. Electric co-ops are committed to di- verse energy portfolios, which enable them to provide safe, reliable, affordable and, when feasi- ble, sustainable electricity to their consum- er-members in Oklahoma and surrounding states. Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), a generation and transmission (G&T) supplier based in Anadarko, Okla., was the fi rst utility in the state to negotiate a power purchase agreement with a wind farm. As a result, Blue Canyon Wind Farm came online at the end of 2003 in south- western Oklahoma. Fast forward 12 years, and WFEC continues to see growth in its wind gen- eration portfolio; today, WFEC’s nameplate wind total is at 525 megawatts, with the potential for providing some 21 percent of its total annual energy.* With four long-term wind farm con- tracts in Oklahoma and two in New Mexico, WFEC looks to add more wind farm projects in 2015, for a combined total of 576 megawatts.


6 “The investment in wind energy evolved out of


a strategy WFEC has implemented with the help of its board of trustees,” Richard Ross, manager of risk management, said. “We took the initiative to invest in wind when there was no federal or state mandate to do so.” Other cooperative-led wind efforts entail 11 percent wind power for Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. based in Springfi eld, Mo., that generates power for six G&Ts including KAMO Power, based in Vinita, Okla., and 11 percent for Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, based in Amarillo, Texas, and providing power to Tri- County Electric Cooperative in the Oklahoma Panhandle.


Wind Power 101 Wind power is the conversion of natural wind captured in the atmosphere to mechanical ener- gy, then to electricity. Centuries ago, wind power was used in the form of windmills, which pumped water and milled grain, among other farm tasks. Today, modern wind turbines are the new and improved windmills—the cutting-edge technolo- gy that transforms wind’s kinetic energy into electricity. You probably have seen these wind turbines dotting the Oklahoma landscape, especially in western parts of the state. Wind turbines typically range in size from 80-foot to over 300-foot, from base to tip of upright blade. They consist of three primary elements: a tubular steel tower, blades, and a nacelle (see adjacent infographic to identify these elements). According to AWEA, wind power is catego- rized in three types: utility-scale wind, distributed


or “small wind,” and offshore wind. For the pur- poses of this article, we will take a look at utili- ty-scale wind, which consists of wind farm projects that generate 10 to 300 megawatts or more in order to be commercially feasible. These large-scale turbines are designed to interconnect with the power grid. The electric power these tur- bines produce is transmitted via high-voltage transmission lines to distribution cooperatives or power system operators that in turn distribute this power by way of lower-voltage transmission lines to local homes and businesses. When the wind blows, activating a turbine, the blades capture energy and begin rotating, which prompts an internal shaft to spin. This shaft is connected to a gearbox, increasing the speed of this rotation. The process activates a generator that produces electricity. According to Andy Woods, operations manag- er at Blue Canyon Wind Farm, a project by EDP Renewables, the range of speed needed to trigger movement in a turbine can be anywhere from 8 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour. Woods add- ed the winter months are ideal for highest poten- tial production because it is denser than summertime’s hot air. Wind farm developers conduct extensive re-


search over a location before developing a proj- ect. Several factors come into play including wind activity, access to transmission lines, market to sell electricity, the preservation of existing wildlife or farm animals, and the willingness of land owners to lease the land in exchange for royalty payments. “We looked for proximity to the grid and a good wind profi le. Our site is unique because it


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