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Energy leaders explore innovative solutions

Posted on 10/30/2013 by Larry Mattox SU

Energy leaders from across the state met Sept. 11 to address strains on the electric grid caused by the rapid growth in the oil and gas industry. Leaders discussed a distributed energy resources/microgrid study that has potential of alleviating strain, and providing additional stimulus to the already booming Oklahoma economy. Meeting organizers included: Oklahoma State University, Guernsey, Oklahoma Corporation Commission Public Utility Division, and Smart Energy Source.

The DER/micogrid study will evaluate microgrid benefits, as well as develop an overall plan for integrating technology into the planning processes of oil and gas producers and utilities. The current lack of coordination among producers, utilities and regulatory bodies prevent innovations – like microgrids – from even being considered. Wednesday’s meeting was aimed toward spurring coordination and collaboration; as a full gamut of energy stakeholders were in attendance. Attendees included investor owned utilities, distribution cooperatives, generation and transmission cooperatives, oil and gas producers, as well as state regulators and officials with the Southwest Power Pool, which oversees operation of the electric grid for a region that includes Oklahoma.

SPP Regional State Committee Vice President and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy praised all parties involved in finding a solution.

“The problem is that for energy producers, time is literally money, while electric utilities traditionally have to take a slow and deliberative approach to developing needed infrastructure.” Murphy said. “It has been gratifying to see the response from Oklahoma’s best and brightest to this problem since I began bringing it to the attention of the SPP and others. It is especially noteworthy because this involves true ‘outside the box’ thinking from a consortium made up of groups with greatly different backgrounds and experience. I believe this will serve as an example for other states to follow in tackling such problems.”

Microgrids are smaller versions of electric grids. Instead of a large power plant powering hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and industries; a microgrid is a smaller generation plant that serves a small area and relatively fewer loads. Microgrids are interconnected to the larger-electric grid and provides backup power in the event the electric grid is down.

Microgrids may become more common as the demand for electricity could outpace the speed utilities can build generation, transmission and distribution facilities. Microgrids have potential of being more cost effective to build than long-distance transmission lines and can be relocated if the load is no longer needed; making them more ideal for serving sometimes volatile oil and gas loads.

Guernsey, an Oklahoma City-based engineering firm, will conduct the study. Information is available at
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