Southern Power announced recently that its 100-megawatt Wildhorse Mountain Wind Facility in the Ouachita Mountains in Pushmataha County, Okla., is operational. It is the only operating project generating power using wind to be located so far south and east in the state, at least for now — something industry advocates attribute to technological upgrades involving blades and turbines that have made it possible to generate a usable stream of energy at increasingly low wind speeds.
These days, a steady breeze of 3 to 4 miles per hour suffices, opening up southeastern Oklahoma to wind development opportunities that previously weren’t feasible, Mark Yates, vice president and Oklahoma director of the Advanced Power Alliance, told The Oklahoman newspaper.
“Fifteen years ago, you would not have been able to develop a project of this type in southeast Oklahoma," he said.
The other reason projects are beginning to move into that part of Oklahoma is to escape from congestion-related issues involving the grid covering northern and western parts of the state as additional wind, solar and storage technology projects continue to be designed and built.
Yates told the publication there is about a 2-gigawatt queue of pending wind energy projects across the state, plus another 6 gigawatts of pending solar projects that are in some stage of development.
“Clearly, we have no expectation that everything in the queue will get built,” Yates said, “but we have a lot still to come.”
As for the Wildhorse Mountain project, Southern Power officials said it is selling associated renewable energy credits and the electricity the plant produces for the next 20 years to the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.
Wildhorse Mountain consists of 29 pole-mounted wind turbines manufactured by Vestas, which Southern Power hired to maintain.
Southern Power acquired the facility in May 2018 from Renewable Energy Systems, the developer that built the project and created 250 jobs at peak construction.