What does the future have in store for the electrical industry?
Electricity as the modern world knows it is thought to have come into existence with an experiment with a kite by Benjamin Franklin in 1752.
Over the two and a half centuries plus since then, electricity has taken on many forms with the addition of the light bulb in the days of Thomas Edison.
In more recent times, electrical sources such as wind power and solar power have come about through research, and on the High Plains of Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, these sources are making their presence known.
Local provider Southern Pioneer, a member of Mid-Kansas Electric LLC (MKEC), a wholesale provider of electric generation and transmission services, purchases its power wholesale from Mid-Kansas.
Southern Pioneer Energy Services Supervisor Rae Gorman said Mid-Kansas has a diverse generation portfolio consisting of coal and natural gas, including the Cimarron River station near Liberal, and wind.
“Mid-Kansas is a member of the 14-state Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which operates an Integrated Energy Marketplace where the lowest cost generation, supplied by SPP members, is dispatched during all hours to serve the load requirements of the customers in the 14 states,” she said. “So, in addition to the Mid-Kansas resources, Southern Pioneer is technically accessing other types of generation outside of western Kansas, such as nuclear and hydropower.”
As for what’s on the horizon in terms of new sources for electrical providers, Gorman said Southern Pioneer, along with five other electric distribution cooperatives that also own Mid-Kansas, works with MKEC to find the best resources to meet members’ energy needs.
“This includes wind and traditional dispatchable resources, such as Rubart station and Cimarron station, and in the future may include solar,” she said.
At this time, Gorman said MKEC does have 128 milliwatts of wind from two Power Purchase Agreements in its generation portfolio.
“We also access additional wind generation through market purchases in the SPP Integrated Marketplace,” she said.
The future of wind energy itself, Gorman said, is anyone’s guess.
“Wind has been developed as a result of the production tax credit, meaning the cost is affordable to the ratepayer because about half of the cost is being subsidized by the taxpayer,” she said. “Because large scale wind is dependent upon tax policy, predicting the future would require understanding what tax policy Congress and the president will pursue.”