Battery technolgy on an industrial scale that can supply instant power for consumers across entire regions of the country has arrived in Oklahoma. The technology presents new opportunities to supply reliable power to grids, but rules that will govern its future use still need to be developed.
Regulators are going to have to catch up with developers who are installing cutting-edge battery storage technology in Oklahoma to boost the amount of power available on the regions grid.
Developers of the Skeleton Creek project, which will go live in stages over the next two years, discussed that issue and other interesting facts about their plans as part of a renewable energy conference held this week in Oklahoma City.
Questions that must be resolved include defining how to establish nameplate capacities for battery storage projects and then how to use them to meet regional power demand needs that are ever-changing as more wind and solar capacity is added to grids.
Currently, natural gas-fired generating stations are a preferred way to supply that balancing power, but batteries could change that over time.
NextEra is building the Skeleton Creek project, expected to generate about 1.8 million megawatt hours of energy annually, in Garfield, Alfalfa and Major counties. When it opens, it will be the largest facility of its type in the world.
Its power will be bought by Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, which supplies energy to both the grid operated by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and to 21 distributive cooperatives across Oklahoma and parts of New Mexico it serves.
In 2018, it generated about 6 million megawatt hours of power, while its customers consumed nearly 13 million megawatt hours during the same period. It sells power to and buys power from the SPPs open market.
The SPPs grid covers all or parts of 13 states between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River valley between the Red River on Oklahomas south border and the U.S./Canadian borders.
Skeleton Creek will become operational in phases.
The first piece, Skeleton Creek Wind, will be able to generate 250 megawatts of energy when it comes online this year.
Skeleton Creek Solar will be able to generate 250 megawatts of energy. It will come online in 2023 along with Skeleton Creek Energy, which will have the ability to store and furnish 200 megawatts of energy for four hours on a full charge.
Currently, there are very few regulations that cover the battery technology. But Casey Moye, a project director with NextEra, and Phillip Schaeffer, the principal resource planning engineer with
Western Farmers, remarked the SPP found itself in similar circumstance when large-scale wind projects were just beginning to get built.
Over time, SPP and its members developed and adopted rules enabling the technology to effectively be implemented into the system, and both men said they expect the same will happen again.
For now, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an order that requires the SPP and other regional grid operators to develop rules to define nameplate capacities for storage projects (an important issue, as investment tax credits that help make them affordable are tied to that number).
The question of how much capacity is appropriate for battery storage products is still being debated across much of the country, Schaeffer said, adding that questions about how it will be used still must be resolved.
Many grid operators would prefer to just turn on a natural gas plant when a need for more power exists and to not have to deal with a new technology.
Moye and Schaeffer discussed the Skeleton Creek project in a breakout session that was part of the annual energy conference hosted by the
Oklahoma Association of Energy Engineers and the Oklahoma Renewable Energy Council.
Participants in other breakout sessions during the conference gathered to talk about other renewable energy technologies and programs.
This years conference, titled 2020, enVISION the Future, was held this week in Oklahoma City.
Tom Korpal, president of the engineers association and a district energy services leader for Trane, a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand, helped open the conference by telling how his company is working to address global climate change and how far it hopes to get in the next decade.
Things will be more complex in 2030, Korpal said, noting current projections estimate the middle class will continue to grow and that urbanization trends will continue.
To meet those needs, energy engineers will be increasingly turning to using renewable sources of power.
It is about how we can interconnect our networks and build cities of the future in a sustainable manner, he said.
Opening session attendees also heard from Matthew Ellis, part of a team that is building electric vehicle charging stations across the southwest for Francis Solar.
Ellis told how his company successfully built and deployed a network of more than 250 fast chargers at about 110 locations across Oklahoma during the past few years and its future plans.
Our goal is to replicate this across surrounding states, he said.
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