Oklahoma Flips Switch on 2.5 Megawatt Solar Farm

This new solar farm can power the equivalent of about 500 homes.

(TNS) -- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin flipped the ceremonial switch Monday morning on a 2.5 megawatt solar farm at Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.'s Mustang plant in far western Oklahoma City.

Fallin joined Sean Trauschke, president and CEO of OGE Energy Corp., at the event, which drew local and state elected officials along with OG&E employees.

Fallin said Oklahoma has had an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that helps keeps electricity rates lower than most other states. That's a key selling point when marketing Oklahoma to new businesses, she said.

"When I'm trying to attract a business and new jobs to our state, I'm talking about our cost of living, our cost of commercial real estate, our housing, but one of the things I sell is our cost of power," Fallin said.

The governor said she was impressed on a recent trip to Europe with the number of solar panels in some countries. OG&E's addition of solar will help drive further innovation in Oklahoma, Fallin said.

"We have a very long history in our state of energy production," Fallin said. "We've been an innovative leader in new technology, certainly in the oil and gas industry, but we've also been very progressive in looking at other technology, whether it's becoming one of the leading states in the nation in wind power, which OG&E has incorporated along with natural gas.

"Now to add solar power into our energy mix in our state is truly a great accomplishment. I'm very excited to see where this goes in the state of Oklahoma."

OG&E is using the 15-acre site to the north and south of its aging Mustang natural gas plant to learn more about solar technologies. The south site has 2,000 fixed solar panels, making up 0.5 megawatts of production. The north site, at 2 megawatts, has about 8,000 panels on a tracking system to follow the sun throughout the day.

With solar, OG&E sees many similarities to its push into wind power a dozen years ago, Trauschke said. The utility started small with a 50-megawatt wind project and now has more than 800 megawatts of wind capacity.

OG&E's solar farm can power the equivalent of about 500 homes.

"We're very excited about this," Trauschke said. "Solar's not new. Solar's been around for a number of years, but with any new technology, two things happen: you seen continual innovation, and the product gets better; the other thing you see is the costs dramatically decline."

In addition to the Mustang solar farm, OG&E also has rooftop solar panels on service center buildings in Shawnee and north Oklahoma City. It's also testing some battery storage technology at the OG&E Technology Center in Oklahoma City.

OG&E is spending about $7.5 million on the solar project, which also qualifies for federal and state tax incentives.

©2015 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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