Greater Oklahoma City is in the geographic center of North America equidistant from the east and west coasts and major trade partners of Canada and Mexico. The ten county region is at the crossroads of the U.S., sitting at the heart of three major national highways on the NAFTA corridor.
There's a reason Greater Oklahoma City is such a great place for business: Location. The ten county region is positioned within a day's drive of the rapidly-growing south-central region (OK, TX, AR, LA) projected to grow more than 44% during the next 25 years.
Oklahoma has the potential to be a major player in the nation's wind power industry with capacity to not only provide power within the state and region but to export power to other parts of the country, said Tom Hiester, Acciona Energy North America's vice president of development for the central region.
But for the state to achieve its potential in the wind power industry, additional transmission infrastructure is needed to move the wind-generated power from generating facilities in western Oklahoma to other parts of the nation, including the Southeast, said Hiester, who will be among the speakers at a conference, "Oklahoma Wind Commerce 2009, The Future is Now," scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday at the Embassy Suites in Norman.
Acciona has become an active player in Oklahoma's wind industry. On Saturday the company will dedicate the Red Hills Wind Farm near Hammon, which is north of Elk City. Red Farms has the capacity to produce 123 megawatts of power from 82 wind turbines. Acciona has a 20-year agreement to sell the power to Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, based in Anadarko.
Acciona Energy North America, part of Acciona Energy of Spain, also has plans to build two other wind farms in Roger Mills and Custer counties in western Oklahoma.
Federal proposals could boost Oklahoma's opportunity to sell wind-generated power to other parts of the country.
"Currently, there are federal efforts to encourage the movement of power generated from renewable sources," he said.
Financing the transmission infrastructure is a potential roadblock.
"Who is going to pay for the transmission infrastructure is where the challenge occurs," said Hiester, who will be Wednesday's speaker at the conference.
The Southwest Power Pool is helping.
In late April when the Southwest Power Pool approved a group of seven new high-voltage transmission projects, the group of 54 members used a new balanced portfolio approach for the first time to allocate projected costs of more than $700 million.
Under the balanced portfolio approach, SPP evaluates the benefits of a group of economic upgrades rather than calculating upgrades on a project-by-project basis. If a power provider's customers will receive 25 percent of the benefits from a project, the provider and its ratepayers will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost, said Les Dillahunty, SPP senior vice president of engineering and regulatory policy.
The Southwest Power Pool oversees the regional wholesale transmission grid. SPP developed the balanced portfolio approach as a strategic initiative to develop a cohesive group of economic transmission expansion upgrades benefiting the region. Oklahoma members include Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Public Service of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
The next step, Dillahunty said, is developing a similar strategic plan to allocate transmission infrastructure costs to other regions, including population centers east of the Mississippi River.
Oklahoma's wind industry potential and building the transmission infrastructure will be among Hiester's topics at the conference in Norman.
The conference was developed by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to help Oklahoma companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs and communities explore the wind industry's business and economic development opportunities.
"Considering Oklahoma's tremendous wind resource capacity, the wind industry represents a significant economic development opportunity," said Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma secretary of commerce and tourism. "A conference that showcases the business and economic development opportunities for our existing businesses and manufacturers is an important part of ensuring that the wind industry moves forward in Oklahoma."
Potential extends beyond wind farms. Oklahoma is the ideal location for wind generation, tower and blade production, turbine component manufacturing, repair and maintenance operations and industry research and development, Shirley said.
The wind conference will include discussions on how Oklahoma can build its wind industry supply chain and how companies can be involved.
The agenda also includes the wind industry's work force and training needs and what Oklahoma has to offer the industry.
"Positioning Oklahoma's Workforce to Grow the Wind Industry" is the topic for a breakout session scheduled from 10:45 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Kimberlee Smithson, director of business and industry services for High Plains Technology Center in Woodward, will be the moderator. High Plains developed a program offering certificates for wind power technicians.
Panelists will include Jerry Neilson, division head of science and engineering at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, and John Claybon, Oklahoma City Community College corporate training consultant.
In October, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the state's first wind turbine technology degree program at OSU-OKC. The initial students began the two-year degree program in January and are on track to complete the program in 2011.
Oklahoma City Community College is offering Introduction to Wind Energy Industry. The course begins Friday and will include wind turbine fundamentals, environmental issues and safety concerns. The eight-week course is a prerequisite for OCCC's wind turbine technician certification program.
Another session - "Beyond Utility Scale: Niche Wind Opportunities & Initiatives" - will feature small-scale wind projects. Kylah McNabb, wind energy development specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, will be the moderator. Panelists will include Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower; Carol Wyatt, Wind Energy Project coordinator, Cherokee Nation Enterprises; Ron Feazle, Kaw Enterprise Development Authority executive director; and Jim Wiggin, superintendent Yarbrough Public Schools.
In October, a new 50-kilowatt wind turbine started generating electric power for Yarbrough Public School near Goodwell in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The turbine mounted on a 100-foot tower about 100 yards south of the school is expected to generate about 50 percent of the electricity for the school, Wiggin said.
The cost for the conference is $95. Registration information for the conference is available at www.OKcommerce.gov/windcommerceregister.