Arkansas Utilities Benefit From Wind Energy Subsidies

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 12:00 am  

Windy Cooperatives

It’s a different story, however, for those that live in the parts of Arkansas served by cooperatives.

Keith Sugg, vice president of integration for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., said the utility receives 51 megawatts from a wind farm in Kansas, and the company has been using it for a couple of years.

By the end of 2014, he said, the utility will begin a contract with another wind farm that will increase its wind generation to 201 megawatts.

From a size perspective, Sugg said, the company has a total of a bit more than 3,000 megawatts from all generation sources.

“So [wind] in itself isn’t significant,” he said.

Sugg said wind energy is attractive to AECC because the contracts allowed the utility to use it under a fixed price over several years, which can help lower wholesale rates for member cooperatives around the state.

Still, he said, if the “prices were out of reason,” wind would be factored out, just as it was for Entergy.

“If we could provide [energy] for members less expensively, we would not spend members’ money to say, ‘Oh, look, we have wind,’” Sugg said. “So we’re doing it because we believe it’s in the best interest of our members. All else being equal, if we had fossil generation available and wind available and the [prices] were identical, we would pick the one with lesser environmental impact.”

But wind, Sugg, said, still has its own set of problems, accounting for why it doesn’t make up more of the utility’s generation portfolio.

“You would not want a system where all the generation was wind-powered,” he said. “What do you do when the wind stops? You have to have enough that’s dispatchable — i.e., controllable generation — if and when the wind decides to stop.”

Also, since the generation level of wind is variable, AECC employees would need to react to increased or decreased production by in turn increasing or decreasing other forms of generation to balance out the power.



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