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“Adding solar to our power mix


keeps us relevant. Our membership wants us to be their energy partner, they look for us to provide solutions, and if we don’t, they will go


elsewhere.” - Zac Perkins, TCEC Chief Operating Officer


Continued from Page 7


TCEC offers residential members the opportu- nity to subscribe to solar panels for $350 each. Members are able to subscribe to more than one panel as long as their credit for energy produced does not exceed their energy consumption. Each panel is 400 watts, and members who subscribe should expect to receive an average monthly credit of $3, or $30 to $35 a year. The panels will be operated, maintained and insured by TCEC and its partner Today’s Power Inc., allowing members to benefit from solar power without the responsibilities involved with ownership and maintenance on their property. The 1 MW of solar power generation will lessen TCEC’s peak demand needs with their power supplier, Golden Spread Electric Cooperative based in Amarillo, Texas. Perkins pointed out the solar project enables the co-op to lock in a small portion of TCEC’s power cost for 25 years, fostering rate stability. In addition, members can take pride in the fact the power is generated locally. Consumers throughout the state will see new


developments in co-op community solar projects in the year of 2016. Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), a generation and transmis- sion cooperative based in Anadarko, Okla., is moving forward with a proposal to install com- munity solar projects of approximately 100 to 250 kilowatts (KW) for a total of 3.5 MWs at approximately 15 sites. These projects will be built and maintained by WFEC in various of its member cooperatives’ service territories, offering end-use consumer cooperative members the op- portunity to participate in solar power generated in their ‘backyard.’ WFEC supplies the electrical needs of 18 member cooperatives in Oklahoma, along with Altus Air Force Base, plus four coop- eratives in New Mexico.


Utility-scale Projects Utility-scale projects are distinguished from community solar projects by their size (typically


October’s Photo 8


Cumulative growth of cooperative-owned and purchased solar capacity by year from 2008 to 2014. From 2014 to 2017, co-ops plan to add a total of 144 megawatts solar capacity. Source: NRECA Strategic Analysis - (Data as of October 2014).


starting at 1 MW) and by the fact that electricity is sold to wholesale utility buyers, not end-use consumers. The WFEC board of trustees recently authorized a contract with Phoenix Solar for the construction of 18 MWs of utility-scale projects that are preliminarily planned to be located at five strategic sites across southwest Oklahoma: Cyril, Fort Cobb, Hinton, Elk City and a loca- tion near Altus Air Force base in Altus. WFEC will own, operate and maintain each facility, each of which will generate between 3 and 5 MWs. According to Brian Hobbs, WFEC vice presi- dent of legal and corporate services, it takes about 7 acres to hold panels for 1 MW. Projects are expected to reach completion by fall 2016. Additionally, as part of a previous contract,


WFEC entered into a power purchase agreement at a solar power facility near San Jon, N.M., for approximately 25 to 30 MWs. This project will take up 200 acres of land south of Interstate 40, about 15 miles into the state of New Mexico. The ownership of utility-scale projects in


Oklahoma and the power purchase agreement in New Mexico will allow WFEC to evaluate the pros and cons of each scenario. “Through careful analysis, we believe the own- ership model will provide the best long-term cost for our cooperative members. We are using these projects to test or verify this theory,” Hobbs said. Each project will be located near a WFEC sub- station. Hobbs said that he expects no need to hire additional staff; plus, adding solar will en- hance long-term rate stability. “With declining costs of utility-scale projects over the years we don’t expect a rate increase as- sociated with adding these facilities to our gener- ation portfolio. They will be blended into our cost,” Hobbs said. Ozarks Electric Cooperative based in Fayetteville, Ark., and serving members in north- eastern Oklahoma, has recently announced the development of a 1 MW utility-scale, mem- ber-owned solar facility. Ozarks’ solar generation facility will be located in Springdale, Ark., and is expected to be operational in March 2016.


“We strongly believe this groundbreaking facil- ity will create a positive impact, both environ- mentally and financially, for our members and our community,” Mitchell Johnson, president/ CEO of Ozarks Electric said. “This facility comes as yet another example of our commitment to our purpose.”


Solar Benefits & Trade Offs Much like other renewable sources such as wind and hydro, solar power is intermittent. Since the sun is not always shining, solar genera- tion must be backed up by generation sources fueled by natural gas and coal that can be called upon when needed. Despite its intermittent na- ture, Hobbs pointed out solar power matches more effectively with peak power time periods during the day as compared to wind generation. For example, in the hot summer months, peak demand occurs between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. While wind generation peaks in the overnight hours, solar power generation peaks in the afternoon, with its best generating capacity between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.


Capital cost to build solar facilities is still sig- nificant, but the trade off is no fuel cost. And while solar power generation today costs 50 to 100 percent more than wind prices at utility scale, Hobbs believes adding solar to the mix fosters diversity of fuel sources and boosts reliability. Western Farmers already has, or is committed to add in the coming months, almost 600 MWs of wind generation. “We believe diversity of resources is key to long-term, low-cost generation. That’s why we use wind, hydro, solar, coal and natural gas,” Hobbs said. “Diversity is critical to long-term re- liability and affordability.” Every fuel source has pros and cons. As co-ops look to the future, they continue to balance di- verse fuel sources to provide safe, affordable, re- liable and sustainable electricity to their consumers. As long as the sun keeps shining, co- ops plan to continue to harness the power of the sun to empower member-owners.


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