Renewable Energy Powering The Sooner State

State Economy

The population of the “Sooner State” of Oklahoma is approximately 3.98 million people[1]. Oklahoma is the 28th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Oklahoma’s economy was ranked 31st in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, oil, natural gas, renewable energy, aerospace, aircraft,  and biotechnology industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2010, Oklahoma enacted a renewable energy goal for all investor owned utilities to sell 15% of the electricity from renewable sources by 2015[4].

In December 2020, Oklahoma utilities[5] used natural gas (45.2%), renewable energy (44.8%), and coal (10.0%) to generate electricity. Currently, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and solar are the primary sources of renewable energy in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s use of inexpensive renewable energy and natural gas contributes to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In December 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Oklahoma was 8.88 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.80 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Oklahoma include:

  • 999 MW Wind Project – In May 2020, Illinois renewable energy, Invenergy commenced work on the Traverse Wind Energy Center, which is located in Custer, Blaine, and Kingfisher Counties in central Oklahoma. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 287 MW Wind Project – In May 2020, Illinois renewable energy, Invenergy commenced work on the Maverick Wind Energy Center, which is located in Major County in northern Oklahoma. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 200 MW Wind Project – In March 2021, North Carolina utility, Duke Energy commissioned the Frontier Windpower Project, which is located in Kay County in northern Oklahoma.
  • 199 MW Wind Project – In May 2020, Illinois renewable energy, Invenergy commenced work on the Sundance Wind Energy Center, which is located in Waynoka and Aline Counties in northwestern Oklahoma. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 10 MW Solar Projects – In October 2020, Oklahoma utility, OG&E commissioned two 5 MW solar projects in Davis County for the Chickasaw Nation and in Durant County for the Choctaw Nation.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining first began in eastern Oklahoma in 1873[6], prior to statehood. Coal was initially used to fuel forges, furnaces, and steam engines.

In 2019, Oklahoma has five operating mines, which produce approximately 600,000 tons of bituminous coal per year. The coal used to fuel the majority of Oklahoma’s power plants is imported by rail from Wyoming.

In 2010, 47.9% of Oklahoma’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. In 2020, 10.0% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the dramatic decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Economics – The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. Environment – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[7].
  3. Climate Change – Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

In 2010, fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) generated over 90% of the state’s electricity. In 2020, renewable energy generated 45% of the state’s electricity.

Oklahoma, unlike many “environmentally progressive” states has no mandatory energy standards for state utilities. However, the economics of renewable energy has spurred state utilities to aggressively move from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

[1] Oklahoma Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Oklahoma  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Oklahoma State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] Oklahoma Historical Society

[7] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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