GRDA to buy 100MW from Apex

Oklahoma’s Grand River Dam Authority has agreed to buy 100MW of future wind output from developer Apex Clean Energy’s Kay project, as key industrial customers in the state – notably Google – clamour for more green electricity.

The Kay project, which will tip the scales at 300MW, is due online next year in north central Oklahoma, according to Virginia-based Apex.

The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), a wholesale power supplier serving parts of Oklahoma, is snapping up wind power purchase agreements, as environmental restrictions tighten on its coal-fired plants.

But the utility has another motivation for buying more wind: its customers are demanding it do so.

“We are seeing an increased interest in renewable power from several of our industrial and commercial customers,” says GRDA chief executive Dan Sullivan, explaining the motivation behind the latest PPA.

In 2012 the GRDA contracted to procure 48MW of output from the 298MW Canadian Hills wind farm near Oklahoma City for use at Google’s data centres in the state.

That deal marked an important pivot for Google, which had previously contracted to buy renewable power directly from project developers – but has since grown fond convincing local utilities to handle the procurement end.

GRDA did not say whether the output from Kay will be sold directly to Google.

The Canadian Hills project, which was developed by Apex before being sold to Boston-based Atlantic Power in 2012, uses turbines made by Germany’s Senvion and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Earlier this year the GRDA followed up the Canadian Hills deal by unveiling a 20-year PPA with developer TradeWind Energy for 234MW of output from two Oklahoma wind farms – the 136MW Mustang Run and 98MW Breckinridge projects. Both are due for completion next year.

With the addition of the output from the Kay project, “well over” 15% of GRDA’s generation capacity will come from wind – up from about 3% two years ago.

Coal remains GRDA’s largest generation source, although the utility has not yet decided whether to keep its largest coal-fired unit – a 490MW plant opened in 1982 – in operation after 2016.

“Additional wind power is a key point in our long-term generation plan, and this agreement allows us to use Oklahoma wind to generate long-term benefits for Oklahoma ratepayers,” says Sullivan.

“Oklahoma wind provides a greater balance and diversity in the generation portfolio and can equal lower costs.”

Oklahoma is a wind powerhouse among US states, with the sixth largest installed capacity as of last year – and the fourth highest output, reflecting its strong winds.

The state gets 15% of its electricity from wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association.