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Seeing Green

Renewables attract utility investment dollars.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2009

Texas, which had about 1,000 MW of wind assets in development throughout the United States. We had three or four projects ready to enter construction, and Duke has successfully put 240 MW of wind assets into the ground in the past 18 months.

The next large investment Duke made was acquiring Catamount Energy, a pure-play wind development shop in Rutland, Vt. Catamount brought additional development expertise and also a nice portfolio of assets and an interest in a large operating wind farm, the 283-MW plant in Sweetwater, Texas, one of the largest wind farms in the United States. Today, Duke has about 500 MW of operating wind capacity and the program is still growing. Construction projects that are now ready to kick off will be commercial by the end of 2009. We’ll have 600 MW in the ground by the end of the year, and our stated goal is to add 200 to 300 MW per year on average. We’re commercializing our development pipeline.

Langston, OG&E: Of course Oklahoma is very windy, and we have a lot of wind potential. Nationally we might be the second-largest generator of wind power by 2030. We could produce 8 to 9 percent of the nation’s energy needs. So Oklahoma and OG&E are looking at wind potential and being as proactive as possible.

We’re focused on the underlying need for transmission infrastructure to make wind energy viable. Before we filed our renewable plan, there were a lot of developers standing around saying they want to build wind power. We said, ‘We want that too, but there’s no transmission.’ We were stuck. Which comes first? OG&E had to take a leadership position to build enough transmission capacity for the amount of wind power we need. We worked with the PUC to get approvals for a 120-mile, 345-kV transmission line from Oklahoma City to Woodward. The windiest part of our system is in the panhandle of Oklahoma, so we built transmission lines to access those resources.

Since we started construction on that line, OG&E announced the intention to build or contract an additional 600 or 700 MW of wind energy. We’ve seen the number of wind developers quadruple, and requests for interconnection have increased sixfold. Today we have 170 MW of wind power on our system. 50 MW of it comes from a PPA with FPL.

Like other utilities, we were learning about wind and how it will impact the reliability of our system. Since then we went out and acquired and completed construction of the 120-MW Centennial wind farm. At the same time, we opened wind up to retail customers and gave them an opportunity to get involved. Before the Centennial project was built, we sold out the maximum amount of wind we had available and had more than 3,000 customers on a waiting list. Our customers were telling us they were attracted to wind, they liked the idea of being energy independent, and OG&E was the one to go out and get it.

We broke ground on a new 101 MW wind farm in April. It’s