ENID, Okla. — The "largest combined wind, solar and energy storage project in the U.S." is slated for construction in Northwest Oklahoma, with a collective footprint to include Garfield, Alfalfa and Major counties, Western Farmers Electric Cooperative announced Tuesday.
The Skeleton Creek project will consist of a wind farm, a solar farm and an energy storage facility, all of which will be adding power to the Southwest Power Pool electric grid region. Oklahoma and 13 other states are part of the grid, spanning 546,000 square miles of the United States.
Upon completion, the project is expected to produce 500 megawatts of power and provide 200 megawatts of power storage, for a total potential output of 700 megawatts.
Western Farmers entered into a purchase power agreement with NextEra Energy Resources LLC, the company developing the project.
"At Western Farmers, we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers with reliable, low-cost and environmentally-friendly energy," Western Farmers CEO Gary Roulet said in a Tuesday statement.
"With the price of wind and solar energy lower than ever, we are now able to pair it with battery storage to make more affordable, renewable energy available to customers for more hours of the day — even when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining," CEO of Western Farmers, Gary Roulet said.
The three-piece project will come online in two phases, with a 250-megawatt producing wind farm expected by the end of 2019.
The solar farm, which also will produce 250 megawatts, won't come online until 2023, the statement said.
Skeleton Creek's energy storage facility will be in operation around the same time. When the batteries at the facility are fully charged, it can put another 200 megawatts into the grid for up to four hours, NextEra Energy spokesman Bryan Garner said.
"Wind energy is an intermittent source, solar energy is an intermittent source," he said, but a battery makes both sources more reliable.
During hours of peak energy demand, stored power can be released, increasing the flow of energy whenever customers need it most.
"Now what you're seeing with a project like this is the innovation factor of pairing renewables with energy storage," he said. "It allows a renewable project to really model a traditional power plant."
Skeleton Creek isn't the first time renewable energy sources have been coupled with energy storage, Garner said, but it has never been done to this scale in the United States. With consistent advances in renewable energy production, efficiency and affordability continue to increase, he said.
With that in mind, it's possible Skeleton Creek won't be the biggest project in its class for long.
"We hope it's not," he said. "We hope to build one even larger. Though certainly this is the largest of its kind that has been announced."
Willetts writes for the Enid News & Eagle, a CNHI News Service publication.