Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, one of the largest electricity co-ops in Oklahoma, has signed a power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy Resources. Under the terms of the PPA, Western Farmers will receive 500 MW of electricity from the Skeleton Creek renewable energy project. The terms of the PPA have not been announced.
Located in parts of three counties in Oklahoma, Skeleton Creek will include 250 MW of wind power, 250 MW of solar power, and 200 MW of battery storage with a duration of 4 hours for a total of 800 MW. It is the largest combined wind, solar, and storage facility so far in the United States.
Gary Roulet, the cooperative’s CEO, tells The Oklahoman the project will help the cooperative boost the amount of reliable, low-cost and environmentally friendly energy it provides its customers. “With the prices of wind and solar energy lower than ever, we are now able to pair those with battery storage to make more affordable, renewable energy available to customers for more hours of the day — even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.”
The battery storage component will be the first of its kind in the Southwest Power Pool when it becomes operational in 2023. The wind turbine portion of the Skeleton Creek project will be online by the end of this year and the solar power part of the project will be completed in 2023.
“Wind has the tendency to blow during night times, while solar generates its energy during the day,” says Phil Schaeffer, Western Farmers’ principal resource planning engineer. “We are really hoping to see how battery storage interacts with that whole profile. Hopefully, that will translate to better grid stability.”
He adds that Skeleton Creek could become the first of many similar projects across the Great Plains area of the US. Oklahoma is part of the Southwest Power Pool regional transmission organization, which covers 14 states from Oklahoma to the Canadian border. There are currently about 6000 MW of battery storage projects in development within the area covered by the pool.
NextEra CEO John Ketchum says, “With this combined facility, we can optimize and maximize the amount of low cost, emissions free electricity we provide while helping Western Farmers diversify its power generation portfolio, reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and set a great example for others to follow.”
Once Skeleton Creek is operational, Western Farmers will have about 520 MW of solar generation in its portfolio, 955 MW of wind generation, and 270 MW of hydroelectric generation. In total, the co-op has a generating capacity of around 3,500 MW.
The important part of this story is not that Skeleton Creek will be the largest combined wind, solar, and storage facility in the US. What is more important is that it is taking place in Oklahoma, home to the deranged Scott Pruitt, who built his entire career around carrying water for the fossil fuel industry and railing against renewable energy.
Skeleton Creek is a poke in the eye to Donald Trump who likes to whip up his base by telling them they won’t be able to watch television at night because the sun has set and the wind isn’t blowing. Despite all the bloviating, market forces are doing their work. Renewables pencil out as the least expensive source of electricity available. Pious mouthings from mendacious politicians don’t stand a chance when pitted against hard-headed economic realities.