South Making Strides in Renewable Energy
By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Managing Editor
Although the South isn’t producing as much energy from renewable resources as a state like California, it has potential, experts say.
Charlie Coggeshall, renewable energy manager for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said more than 13 gigawatts of wind capacity was installed in the United States in 2012, which was more new generating capacity than from any other source. Coggeshall was one of the featured speakers at CSG South’s recent webinar, “The Impact of Renewable Energy in Southern Economies.”
“Notably, nine states now rely on wind power for more than 12 percent of their total annual electricity consumption,” he said. “Texas, at over 12 gigawatts installed by the end of 2012, was more than twice the next highest state.
“This explosion in wind energy has been caused in part by policy, particularly renewable (energy) portfolio standards, but it is increasingly based purely on price as wind technology and improved supply chain efficiency are making wind competitive, even with low natural gas prices.”
As far as wind energy is concerned, Oklahoma is where it’s at.
“The panhandle of Oklahoma has been called the mother lode of wind in this century,” said Tricia Dameron, GIS coordinator and research analyst in the Oklahoma House of Representatives research division.
Last year, the wind capacity in Oklahoma grew by 50 percent, and the Sooner state is one of four to add more than 1,000 megawatts of capacity in 2012. The growth continues.
“Just last week, the Public Service Company of Oklahoma—one of the state’s largest utilities—signed an agreement to buy 600 megawatts of power from three new wind farm projects in the Oklahoma panhandle,” Dameron said.
Those projects are expected to be online in 2015.
But that growth hasn’t come without some careful policymaking. In 2010, the legislature passed House Bill 2973, the Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act. The legislation outlines the rights and responsibilities of wind farm owners and landowners as related to insurance and the decommissioning of old plants. Senate Bill 1787 ties ownership of the air above a piece of property to the landowner.
House Bill 3028, also passed in 2010, requires 15 percent of all installed electric generated capacity to be derived from renewable sources by 2015. Dameron said because of the state’s strong investment in wind energy, it already is meeting that goal. In 2012, 17.27 percent of the state’s generated capacity came from renewable sources.
Luke Wilkinson, project development manager for Silicon Ranch Corporation, said policymakers play an important role in encouraging development of renewable energy in their state.
Silicon Ranch Corporation, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., helps utilities and companies develop and execute solar energy projects. The corporation worked with Volkswagen when it began building a plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2009. The automaker focused on gaining LEED Platinum Certification, which meant it had to generate about 12.5 percent of the energy the plant would need from renewable sources.
Wilkinson said the Volkswagen plant was a challenge because local energy providers weren’t able to handle such a large load from renewable sources. The solution involved having Silicon Ranch run the renewable facility that borders the auto plant, with Volkswagen entering into a 20-year power purchase agreement.
Coordinating local and state policies that encourage these renewable developments is very important for businesses looking to expand or relocate, Wilkinson said.
“Companies should not be prohibited from entering into power purchase agreements, like what Volkswagen is doing in Chattanooga,” he said. “It’s not always clear in other states and localities whether they’re allowed to do that. … Quite honestly, it prevents some relocation efforts they (businesses) might seek out.
“There’s some confusion at the state level and local level how property taxes should be assessed on solar assets. Having uniform guidance on the state level is very, very important so solar providers and companies alike can understand how those are going to be taxed so they … can price the deal appropriately.”