From: Russell Ray, Tulsa (OK) World
Published April 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Report Touts Wind, Biomass Energy Sources

The development of wind-generated electricity has a lot of potential in Oklahoma and the cost to produce it is less than the cost of power made with natural gas, according to an interim report released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Wind Power Assessment Committee.

The committee, formed last year, recommended the state develop a plan for renewable power generation and create a multi-agency strategy for the development of renewable energy.

Improvements in technology over the last decade have led to a dramatic decline in wind power costs, making wind power the fastest-growing renewable energy technology, the committee said in its report.

So far, the state has generated 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power at a cost of $12.5 million, or about $25 per megawatt hour. That's more than the cost of coal-fired power ($11 per megawatt hour) but less than gas-fired power ($42 per megawatt hour), the committee wrote.

Oklahoma now has 176 megawatts of wind power capacity. An additional 256 megawatts of wind power is expected to come online by the end of 2006 as more wind farms are built in the state.

"Oklahoma has significant wind power potential, as good or better than Texas, the leader in wind power development in this region," the report stated.

Wind power development is being driven by the volatility in natural gas prices and incentives for wind power production, the report stated.

The state's largest power providers, including Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, have entered agreements to provide wind power to customers.

But the report also noted some problems with wind power.

The wind is unpredictable and difficult to forecast. Errors in wind forecasting can lead to hefty scheduling penalties for wind power providers. Forecasting errors can also displace a large amount of low-cost coal-fired power.

Wind forecasting, the report said, needs to improve.

Also, more transmission capacity is needed for further wind power development, but the construction costs are high. Non-discriminatory transmission construction and cost allocation of transmission costs should be addressed, the committee said in its report.

The report also pointed to biomass, the use of waste to produce heat or gas, as another form of renewable energy that has significant potential in Oklahoma.

Biomass energy can be combined with coal to produce electricity at the state's coal-fired power plants. Most of the state's power is made with low-priced Wyoming coal.

"Biomass can be cofired at existing coal-fired plants in a variety of ways," the report stated. The report also said that studies show Oklahoma has more than 1,000 megawatts of undeveloped hydropower.

But most of those undeveloped sites would produce less than 10 megawatts of power, the committee found.

To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2005, Tulsa World, Okla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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