American Wind Power Achieves a Major Milestone

Wind power, renewables, clean energy, Texas, Oklahoma, wind energy, Leon Kaye, Southwest Power Pool,
A wind farm near Weatherford, Oklahoma.

The news was buried under headlines mentioning Mike Flynn’s resignation and the highly public national security discussions at Mar-a-Lago, but the U.S. wind power sector achieved a huge milestone over the weekend.

A regional electricity provider set a record for the amount of power generated by wind. Early in the morning on Sunday, Feb. 12, the Southwest Power Pool announced that it briefly met 52.1 percent of its energy demand with wind power alone.

That makes it the first regional transmission organization in North America to provide over half of its load capacity at any given time using wind power, according to Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The same transmission organization set the previous record, 49.2 percent, in April 2016.

SPP is a coalition of utilities and transmission companies that spans 14 states, from Montana to Texas. The bulk electricity grid manager was founded over 75 years ago to help a factory in Arkansas stay electrified during the wartime effort.

SPP now manages 60,000 high-voltage transmission lines across a 575,000-square-mile area that provide electricity to 18 million people. And the region for which SPP manages electricity is rich in wind.

As Fortune reported this week, the five states that procure the most electricity from wind power are either entirely or partially within SPP’s service area: Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Overall, wind power is the third largest source of electricity for SPP, with an approximate 15 percent total capacity day-to-day, trailing natural gas and coal.

SPP’s achievement further builds the case that many of America’s politically reddest states can benefit from energy policies that encourage the development of renewables. To that end, a coalition of GOP and Democratic governors sent Donald Trump a letter on Monday asking him to consider both funds and legislation that could bolster the country’s clean-energy capacity. They further insisted the clean-energy sector is a job-creator and a catalyst for economic development in rural areas.

But not all GOP governors of the states within SPP’s range are buying into renewables. In her most recent state budget proposal, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin proposed what would be the nation’s highest taxes on wind power while eliminating any tax incentives benefiting the wind energy sector.

Her suggested budget comes despite the fact that Oklahoma added almost 1.2 gigawatts of wind power in the final few months of last year, surpassing California as the state with the third highest amount of wind energy capacity. Arguments claiming that electricity bills are high in Oklahoma are countered by data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that suggests the state’s electricity bills are among the lowest in the U.S., with an average cost of about $20 less a month than its neighbor, wind power- and oil-rich Texas.

But despite local politics, SPP is moving forward with its plans to integrate more wind power into its grid systems. The wholesale power broker says it will invest $10 billion over the next decade to connect more isolated wind farms to urban areas that are several hundred miles away.

Image credit: Travel Aficionado/Flickr

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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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