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TCEC (1 MW)


Northwestern (125 KW)


Oklahoma Co-ops’ Community Solar Projects


Harmon (100 KW)


Cotton (250 KW)


Western Farmers Electric Cooperative Community Solar Projects


In partnership with Today’s Power, Inc. Community Solar Projects


Red River Valley (250 KW)


Southeastern (250 KW)


SITES IN SHAWNEE AND SEMINOLE, OKLA. 250 KW EACH


Left: A view of the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Solar Garden located in Norman, Okla. Photo by John Toland


SITES IN FREDERICK, OKLA. (250 KW) AND


VERNON, TEXAS (100KW) Cimarron (125 KW) Oklahoma (250 KW)


Canadian Valley East Central


(250 KW) (250 KW) Kiamichi (250 KW) Ozarks (1 MW)


Arkansas Valley


(500 KW)


*Other cooperatives shown in dark blue are at various stages of considering community solar projects.


how the market for solar technology has im- proved and is better able to harness the resource in Oklahoma,” Michael Teague, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, said. “It is an effort harnessing the next piece of Oklahoma’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.” To put this into perspective, according to


SEIA, the existing solar capacity currently in- stalled in Oklahoma could power 570 homes. WFEC Principal Resource Planning Engineer, John Toland, said the 20-plus MW electric co- operatives are adding has the potential to power nearly 7,000 homes. Utility-scale sites differ from community so-


lar sites in a few factors, most notably their size—utility-scale typically is 1 MW or larger and utility-scale normally use installations that allow the solar panels to move and track the sun whereas community solar sites are smaller and often use fi xed installations with solar panels that do not move. WFEC completed utili- ty-scale sites in Cyril, Okla., (5 MW with 20,000 panels), Tuttle, Okla., (4 MW with 16,000 pan- els), and in Hinton, Marietta and Pine Ridge, Okla., (3 MW each and 12,000 panels each). These utility-scale projects, which total 18 MW, are owned by WFEC and are located on land purchased by the cooperative with a substation adjacent to each project site. According to Brian Hobbs, WFEC vice president of legal and cor- porate services, it takes about 7 acres to accom- modate panels for 1 MW. As a comparison, 1 MW of solar output is estimated to power 330 homes. Declining costs of photovoltaic (PV) technol- ogies, enhanced efficiencies, favorable


economies of scale, and a heightened interest from member co-ops were factors weighed by WFEC before signing a contract with Phoenix Solar to build the utility-scale sites. The vendor is also responsible for the construction of WFEC member-systems’ community solar sites. “We have been looking at solar energy for 10


years or more,” Hobbs said. “Capital costs to build solar projects are still high compared to other resources, but the cost has come down and is partially offset by other solar attributes such as no fuel costs and no emissions. We be- lieve diversity of resources is key to long-term, low-cost generation. Diversity is critical to reli- ability and affordability.” Twelve newly installed community solar proj-


ect sites are now dotting the Oklahoma land- scape in western and eastern areas. One community solar site is located in Vernon, Texas, as part of Southwest Rural Electric Association’s service territory. These projects range in solar capacity from 100 kW to 250 kW; combined, these projects total 2.7 MW in add- ed solar capacity. WFEC has not historically, and may not in


the future, retain or retire all of the renewable energy certifi cates associated with energy pro- duction from any of these solar facilities.


Subscribing for Solar What exactly is the buzz about community


solar? A community solar project, also known as solar farm or solar garden, refers to the ar- rangement of PV panels collectively working as a single unit, creating an array. Using economies


of scale, the per panel cost of a community ar- ray is typically more affordable than individual panels installed on residential properties. This is how it works: 1) the output of community solar panels are available for members to sub- scribe with a one-time fee; 2) members will re- ceive credit on their electric bill based on the energy production of the panel or panels sub- scribed. This credit will vary depending on the going rate for electricity, but the credit is de- signed to return the value of the subscription and other value, such as no fuel cost, associated with the solar energy produced; 3) members sign an agreement with their co-op for a sub- scription. If members move within the electric cooperative territory, they can take their sub- scription with them. If they choose to cancel the agreement, they can sell back the subscrip- tion at a depreciated value determined by the number of years remaining. For ECOEC, it was important to survey the membership before making the decision to pur- sue a community solar power project. According to ECOEC General Manager Tim Smith, 65 percent of the members who responded to the survey said they were interested in solar energy. Based on this result, the ECOEC board of trust- ees decided to move forward with a community solar array adjacent to the co-op’s headquarters in Oklmulgee, Okla.; the project is maintained and operated by WFEC. Subscriptions for the output associated with one solar panel are avail- able for $350 each. Before going live, the output of 138 panels had already been subscribed by ECOEC members. “This model provides an affordable rate to


JANUARY 2017 7


Southwest Rural (250 KW)


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